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3Hcnrg W. Sage 

Cornell University 

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This Volume is 
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THIS simple narrative of the domestic 
life of Charlotte Bronte is as careful 
and patient as conscience and affection could 
make it. When practicable, I verified by 
personal investigation what 1 had heard and 
read. When dependent upon information 
received from others, I consulted what 
seemed to me the ablest authorities upon a 
subject which has been treated by many, 
with more or less skill. 

To no other published work upon the 
Bronte family am 1 so much indebted as to 
the most interesting volume latelyi issued 
by Professor Clement K. Shorter under the 
title of Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle. It 
is candid, scholarly, and comprehensive, 
and to it my final appeal was made when 
other biographers differed as to leading 
facts, or were confusing in details. It has 
taken its place — and will hold it — as a 



standard cla'ssic in whatever pertains to the 
life-story of a great woman. 

My grateful acknowledgments are here- 
with offered to the Reverend J. Wade, late 
of Haworth Rectory; to Mr. Richard Hewitt 
of Bradford, England, and to Mrs. Mary N. 
StuU of Iowa City (la.), the faithful aman- 
uensis of her aged mother, Mrs. Newsome, 
formerly Sarah De Garrs. 

Marion Harland. 








SONAGE . . -14 


WELL — children's HOME EDUCA 
TION .... 






ERNESS-SHIP . • -97 


viii Contents 



MARRIAGE . . . -114 

HEGER ... I2Q 




DON 183 


CALM " . . . . .199 

Contents ix 



ANNE'S decline — HER DEATH 

charlotte's RETURN HOME — 
"SHIRLEY" . . . 212 



WOOING . . 240 


AND DEATH . . 259 



CHARLOTTE BRONTE . Frontispiece 



TION ... . . 66 




From a painting by Branwell Bronte. 


From a photograph. 

BRANWELL BRONTE . . . . l8o 

From a drawing by Miss E. Taylor. 

From a drawing by Miss E. Taylor. 


From a drawing by Miss E. Taylor. 




OUR England is a bonnie island, and 
Yorkshire is one of her bonniest 

The sentence is put by Charlotte Bronte 
into the mouth of Shirley, the piquante 
heroine of the novel bearing that name. 

The country town of Thornton in the 
county of Yorkshire could not have been 
in the writer's mind when she wrote the 
encomium. It straggles vaguely over wind- 
swept hills, green in summer, but from 
which the bleakness associated with tree- 
less sides and gloomy brows never departs. 

2 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

The best of the houses are mere cottages, 
many little better than peasants' cabins ; all 
are of stone, quarried from neighbouring 
hills, and stained black by fogs and rains. 
In the days antedating railways, Thorn- 
ton was a large hamlet, one third the size 
of the present place. A thin line of houses 
extended to what was known as the "Old 
Denholme Road." This cut at right an- 
gles the broader and more level highway to 
the manufacturing city of Bradford. Other 
steep cross streets have laid themselves out 
parallel with the Denholme Road, and are, 
even now, adorned on washing-day with 
lines of wet clothes, stretched quite across 
the thoroughfare [?] from opposite second- 
storey windows. The heavy-laden ropes 
droop so low that no vehicles, except hand- 
barrows, can pass beneath. The univers- 
ality of the custom argues neighbourly 
good-will, a spirit of accommodation to 
circumstances, and generous faith in the 
amiability of carters and cabmen, who never 
interfere with the routine of domestic du- 
ties. Loud-voiced, bare-armed women, 
their petticoats kilted high above bare or 
broganed feet, clack socially together 
while hanging out the dripping linen, and 

Thornton 3 

rail in unison at children playing hide-and- 
seek among the flapping "wash." 

Dante speaks of an old man whom Death 
had forgotten to strike. Progress has over- 
looked this one of Yorkshire's nooks. The 
whistle of the locomotive tearing onward, 
between the inhospitable hills, to Bradford 
and Leeds, dies into shrill sighs in valleys 
dotted with the everlasting stone cottages. 
Here and there, in a defile, or upon an easy 
slope, towers a tall factory chimney, belch- 
ing pitchy smoke, hanging low for nine 
months of the year, and showering down 
sooty flakes to heighten the sepia effect of 
the monotoned landscape. 

In 1816, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, late 
Curate of Hartshead, a Yorkshire living 
near Huddersfield, removed to Thornton 
with his wife and two infant children. He 
was the son of an Irish farmer and the only 
one of the family who received a liberal 
education. The name, originally O'Prunty, 
was registered in Cambridge by the am- 
bitious lad as Branty. By the time he had 
taken orders and entered upon his first 
curacy in Weatherfield, Essex, he wrote it 

"To me it is perfectly clear,'' decides Mr.- Clement 

4 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

K. Shorter, " that, for the change of name Lord Nelson 
was responsible, and that the dukedom of Bronte, which 
was conferred upon the great sailor in 1799, suggested 
the more ornamental surname. There were no Irish 
Brontes in existence before Nelson became Duke of 

As a handsome young curate, with plenty 
to say for himself, and a graphic way of 
saying it, Mr. Bronte had acquired a reput- 
ation for gallantry and susceptibility to the 
charms of the other sex before he put his 
last crop of wild oats into the ground, in 
1812, by marrying Maria Branwell, a pretty, 
delicate girl from Penzance, in Cornwall. The 
two met and fell in love while Miss Bran- 
well was on a visit to a Yorkshire uncle. 
The marriage took place December 18, 
18 12. Each had attained the conventional 
age of discretion, Maria Branwell being 
twenty-eight, Patrick Bronte thirty-three 
years old. 

The house in which they lived in Thorn- 
ton still stands upon the principal business 
street of that village. It is two-storeyed. 
Half of what was then the front yard is 
covered by a sort of butcher's booth, hardly 
worthy of the name of shop, set flush with 
the sidewalk. Passing through this we 
enter a fair-sized chamber, lighted by a 

Home in Thornton 5 

single window overlooking the small garden 
at the back. A corresponding front window 
was closed by the shop. Naked rafters 
cross the ceiling, in bold relief. The small 
grate in the chimney is the same that took 
the chill off the spring air, April 21, 1816, 
when Charlotte, the Brontes' third daugh- 
ter, was born in the ground-floor chamber. 
There are two other rooms on this floor. 
A small kitchen is at the back ; out of it 
the stairs run directly to the upper storey. 
A parlour, of the same size as Mrs. Bronte's 
bedroom, adjoins it. Above-stairs are two 
chambers of unequal dimensions. That 
over the parlour was Mr. Bronte's study, 
and, although in order to reach it he had 
to. pass through the one spare-chamber in 
the humble establishment, he was com- 
paratively secluded from the wailings and 
rompings of the three babies below. Nurs- 
ery there was none, and the parlour, in 
which the family took their meals, was 
also the sitting-room. 

Small as the place is, and unpretending 
as was the style of Uving in the retired ham- 
let, housewifely tasks and the care of the 
trio of children — the eldest, Maria, -being 
but three years old when Charlotte was 

6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

born— must have been a cruel tax upon 
the mother's strength. She had been 
brought up in the gentler climate of the 
southern coast of England— " where plants 
which we in the north call greenhouse 
flowers, grow in great profusion, and with- 
out any shelter even in winter, and where 
the soft, warm air allows the inhabitants 
to live pretty constantly in the open air." 
Her associates there were her kith and kin 
and neighbours whom she had known all 
her life, people of a totally different order 
from the small shopkeepers, mechanics, 
and peasants who composed her husband's 
cure of souls. 

" Her mind," said her daughter Charlotte 
in 1850, "was of a truly fine, pure, and 
elevated order." And of the letters written 
by Maria Branwell to her lover during the 
brief season of their betrothal, — "There is 
a rectitude, a refinement, a constancy, a 
modesty, a sense, a gentleness about them, 
indescribable. I wish she had lived, and 
that 1 had known her ! " 

"1 am certain," writes Maria to her be- 
trothed, less than a fortnight before the 
wedding-day, "no one ever loved you 
with an affection more pure, constant, 


Birth at Thornton 7 

tender and ardent than that which I feel. 
I long to improve in every religious and 
moral quality that 1 may be a help, and, if 
possible, an ornament to you." * 

Untold myriads of other brides have 
thus dreamed, and aspired, and awakened 
to the stern realism of every-day married 
life, many with a shock that expelled love 
with hope. Mrs. Bronte must have dis- 
missed the dear desire of being an ornament 
to her husband before she lay down, for 
the third time in four years, upon her couch 
of pain, and brought another weakling girl 
into the world. 

Baby Charlotte was two months old 
when she was presented for baptism (June 
29, 181 6) at the font in the Thornton Church. 
The building, now a picturesque ruin, is 
more interesting to the thoughtful visitor 
than the shabby-genteel house in which 
Charlotte Bronte was born. The frame of 
one fine window is intact in the gable, 
which is all that remains of the sacred ed- 
ifice beyond the foundations, a crumbling 
wall a few feet high, and some memorial- 
slabs that once floored the chancel. Until 
very lately the font, which appears in our 

* Shorter's Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 5 1 . 

8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

illustration, was left where it stood when 
the baby was baptised by her father's friend 
and her mother's cousin-in-law, the Rev. 
William Morgan of Bradford. Mr. Morgan 
and Jane Fennel! were married on the 
same day and hour with Mr. Bronte and 
Maria Branwell, Mr. Bronte performing the 
ceremony for Miss Fennell and Mr. Morgan, 
the latter clergyman returning the favour 
by uniting his wife's cousin to Patrick 
Bronte. We like to believe that the near 
neighbourhood of her cousin — but four miles 
distant by the coach-road — tempered, in 
some degree, the asperities of life to the 
fragile little mistress of Thornton Parson- 
age. We choose to imagine, also, that 
Jane Fennell may have been in church 
on June 29, — perhaps in the capacity of 

The ruined church and its smarter succes- 
sor across the road — to which the weather- 
beaten font has been removed — are a full 
mile from the Parsonage by way of the 
winding highways I have described. As 
the Brontes never kept a carriage, the 
oft-ailing mother would be an infrequent 
attendant upon her robust husband's min- 
istrations. Yet her feet must sometimes 

Birtli at Thornton 9 

have pressed the hoary stones we part 
coarse wild grasses to trace, and the 
graceful outlines of the window behind 
the altar were familiar to meek eyes which 
rested upon little else that was beautiful or 
inspiring. The churchyard she crossed to 
reach the house of prayer, and through 
which the Reverend Patrick strode twice 
a week during the four years of his Thorn- 
ton incumbency, is overgrown with grass, 
weeds, and such hardy garden-plants as 
southernwood, lavender, and rosemary, in 
June, pinks bloom in the crevices of neg- 
lected tombs, and English ivy — kindliest 
of creepers — drapes the broken walls of 
the church. Under the very droppings of 
the sanctuary-eaves was buried, over a 
century ago, one whose story is thus told: 

"Here lyeth the Body of Mr. Accepted 
Lister, Minister of the Gospel, who ex- 
changed this Frail Life for a Better, Febru- 
ary the 2^, lyS/g, Anno Aitatis ^8. He had, 
by his abundant Labours, verified his own 
Motto, — 

" ' Impendam ei Expendar. ' 

Mr. Bronte was ever a valiant Church- 
man. We hope, charitably, that when 

10 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

called upon to read the Burial Service over 
some one of the numerous "family graves" 
that are thick on that side of the church, 
his falcon gaze rested respectfully, not in 
scorn, upon the epitaph of the Puritan Non- 
Conformist who wore out his frail body at 
thirty-eight in the strenuous endeavour to 
live up to his "Motto." 

One year and less than a month after 
Charlotte's christening, Mrs. Bronte's uncle. 
Rev. John Fennell, baptised in Thornton 
Church the only son ever born to Patrick 
Bronte and Maria, his wife. The child 
received his father's Christian name and the 
surname of his mother's family, and became, 
as Patrick Branwell, the most important per- 
sonage of the household in his parents' es- 
timation, afterward, and always in his own. 

Charlotte's one distinct recollection of her 
mother, in after-years, was of a pale little 
lady playing with her two-year-old son in 
the fire-lighted Haworth parlour, one win- 
try evening. There was no reason why 
the picture should have stamped itself upon 
the childish mind, unless it were that the 
occasions were pitifully rare when the 
mother had time or spirits for frolicking, 
even with her idolised boy. 

C 3 

Removal to Haworth 1 1 

The friendly kinsman, Rev. William Mor- 
gan, came to the front again, August 20, 
1818, the Sunday on which the Brontes' 
fifth child and fourth daughter received the 
name of Emily Jane, in affectionate remem- 
brance of Mrs. Morgan, the sister-cousin of 
Maria Branwell's girlhood. 

By now, it was a matter of course that 
the Parson should have a new baby every 
year to show to the rural congregation. 
The Register of Baptisms in the Parish of 
Bradford and Chapelry of Thornton contains 
two entries that deviate from the four-year- 
old record. Anne Bronte was not offered 
for baptism until March 25, 1820, and her 
father is set down, not as "Minister of 
Thornton," as at Charlotte's christening, 
or, as when Emily's turn came, "of Thorn- 
ton Parsonage," but as "Minister of 
Haworth." He had been appointed to the 
living of that place a month or so prior to 
Anne's birth. 

Mrs. Gaskell thinks the family removal 
to Haworth took place in February, 1820. 
In that case, the baby would hardly have 
been christened in Thornton a month later. 
Mrs. Bronte, never strong, was a con- 
firmed invalid after Anne's birth, and the 

12 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

four-mile drive over tlie hills would have 
been needless exposure for mother and 
child at that inclement season. It v/as 
probably later in the spring that comes 
coyly, and never early, to that region, that 
seven country carts, laden with books, 
household and kitchen furniture, creaked 
through the one long street of Old Haworth, 
the horses tugging uphill all the way, to 
the gate of the Parsonage. 

Mrs. Gaskell "wonders how the bleak 
aspect of her new home — the low, oblong 
stone Parsonage, high up, with a still 
higher background of sweeping moors — 
struck on the gentle, delicate wife." 

The impression would have been more 
painful but for the middle age of her re- 
sidence in Thornton. The wildness of the 
latter hamlet was less forbidding than Ha- 
worth at that time of the year; still, the 
general features of village and country were 
the same. The vast moors, stretching out 
on all sides and upward, beyond the last 
row of stone cottages and the group of 
church buildings, were more open to the 
searching winds of the North Country than 
the inferior heights about Thornton. The 
winters might be longer here, and the fogs 

Removal to Haworth 1 3 

rising from the deeper hollows, heavier. 
The Parsonage itself, cheerless though it is 
to our eyes, was a decided improvement in 
size and convenience upon the cramped 
quarters on the business street which Mrs. 
Bronte left behind her, while Haworth 
Church, venerable in antiquity and in tradi- 
tion, represented a better living than the Bell 
Chapel of Thornton. The grey old sanctu- 
ary, separated by a churchyard as ancient 
from the Brontes' new home, occupied a 
site consecrated and used as an oratory in 
the fourteenth century; the parish was 
larger and richer than either of the other 
livings Mr. Bronte had held, and was rated 
as a desirable position by the rural clergy. 

It may, then, have been with a lighter, 
not a heavier, spirit that the mother entered 
her new abode, and gathered her six babies 
about the hearthstone in the parlour — the 
parlour that was to be the living-room of 
the family for the rest of their mortal lives, 
and the birth-chamber of the immortal 
books which have made it a shrine to a 
million pilgrims 



reading world knows, stands upon 
higher ground than the church. A tiny door- 
yard is in front, divided from the burying- 
ground by a brick wall. Behind are fields 
sloping upward to the rolling moors. The 
graveyard lies upon the front and one end 
of the dwelling, and, on the upper gable- 
end, is higher than the house grounds, 
suggesting gruesome thoughts as to the 
quality of the water drained into the well 
for cooking and drinking purposes. There 
are four rooms upon the first floor, with a 
central hall. The apartment at the right of 
the front door was assigned at once to Mr. 
Bronte as a study. Back of it, but with no 
communicating door, was the kitchen, it 
had one window, and a rear door giving 

The Six Babies 15 

upon the yard. Opposite the study was 
the parlour. This was the family eating- 
room, and they had no other place in 
which to receive visitors. Next to this, 
and across the hall from the kitchen, was a 
storeroom. Mr. Bronte's bedchamber was 
directly above the study, and as declining 
health soon compelled his wife to have a 
separate sleeping-room, she took that over 
the parlour. A servants' dormitory above 
the storeroom could be warmed by a 
grate, if necessary. The nursery was cut 
off from the upper front hall. The solitary 
window looked upon the graveyard and 
the church. There was neither fireplace nor 
stove in it. The winter's chill and the spring 
dampness must have got into the stone wall 
and flagged flooring, and lingered there 
until July suns baked the house to its heart. 
That was not a luxurious age, and the 
children were Yorkshire-born, yet we can- 
not hear without a shudder that the six 
little things had no other playroom than 
this ; that they spent hours of every day, 
and most of every stormy day here, busy 
with their books and the games invented 
by themselves. They had no toys, and no 
playfellows outside of the Parsonage. 

1 6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Mrs. Bronte brought to Haworth a young 
girl of fourteen or thereabouts, Sarah De 
Garrs by name, the daughter of a respect- 
able Thornton parishioner, to assist in the 
nursery and to accompany the children in 
their walks. Although nominally their 
nurse, she became at length their play- 
mate, friend, and guardian. Mrs. Bronte 
sickened visibly that first summer in the 
new home, and by the time winter closed 
about the moorland Parsonage, was con- 
fined to her bed, unable to take the over- 
sight of the household, seeing the children 
but twice a day, and then for a few 
minutes only. 

Maria (the original of Helen Burns in 
Jane Eyre) was now seven, and the "little 
mother " of the band. Her father had taught 
her to read, and to think. There were no 
juvenile books in his library. He would 
have proscribed them if there had been 
any. Even after Sarah De Garrs's sister 
Nancy was associated with her in the con- 
duct of the house, the work was too heavy 
to permit the attached nurse to devote 
much time to amusing the children. There 
was no longer any attempt to disguise the 
fatal truth that Mrs. Bronte's malady was 

The Six Babies 17 

an internal cancer. The seed of the evil was 
in the scrofulous humour which developed 
with deadly effect in her offspring. It 
matters not now how much annual child- 
bearing, a sour and sharp climate, overwork, 
and narrow means had to do with hasten- 
ing the end. She lay in bed all day, suffer- 
ing intense pain at times, and so miserably 
unnerved that the house must be kept 
perfectly quiet when she "had her worst 

1 have had direct from Sarah De Garrs * 
the story of one day in the overshadowed 
home, a routine laid down and carried out 
by the father — for all these months sick- 
nurse, tutor, breadwinner, and bread-dis- 
penser to the little flock already virtually 

The six children, always neatly dressed 
by their nurse, met their father in his study 
for morning prayers, and, these over, ac- 
companied him across the hall to breakfast. 
The fare was plain, but abundant, — porridge 
and milk, bread and butter, for the morning 
meal seven days in the week. The furni- 
ture of the parlour was scanty, yet well 
kept. The grate was economically contrived 
* Now Mrs. Newsome of Iowa City. 

1 8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

to burn the least quantity of coals consistent 
with enough warmth to save the occupants 
of the room from actual suffering; there 
were two small windows, both looking 
toward the burial-ground. Mr. Bronte 
discouraged table-talk, — for a while, lest the 
clamour of tongues might break the quiet 
of the sick-room overhead ; after Mrs. 
Bronte's death, because his digestion had 
been damaged seriously by night-watching 
and irregular meals snatched in the inter- 
vals of trying offices there was nobody but 
the husband to perform. 

" He was very attentive and affectionate 
to his invalid wife," Mrs. Newsome as- 
severates, once and again. "I am certain 
she had no fear — as many would construe 
the word — of her husband. Only a loving 
wife's fear of offending him." 

"He was not naturally fond of children," 
Mrs. Gaskell remarks in this connection, 
"and felt their frequent appearance on the 
scene as a drag, both on his wife's strength 
and as an interruption to the comfort of 
the household." 

He deserved, then, the more credit for 
the systematic, and, in the main, the wise 
ordering of their daily hving when they 

The Six Babies 19 

were thus committed entirely to tiis care. 
Maria, Elizabetli, Charlotte, Branwell, and 
Emily followed him to the study after 
breakfast. Baby Anne remaining with the 

Mr. Bronte was a scholarly man, with fine 
literary tastes, himself the author of several 
books, none of which attracted much atten- 
tion when published. All of them have long 
been out of print. A volume of Cottage 
Poems and The Rural Minstrel were writ- 
ten before his marriage; two religious 
novels, some pamphlets upon churchly 
themes, and a couple of sermons, afterward. 

" Many a prolific writer of the day passes 
muster as a genius among his contempora- 
ries upon as small a talent," says Mr. 
Shorter, "and Mr. Bronte does not seem 
to have given himself any airs as an author." 

It is doubtful if he ever spoke of the 
short-lived publications to his children. 
The education of his home-class was begun 
and continued along lines of his own de- 
vising, and was, like most of his ideas, 
original in conception and vigorous in 
practice. Maria, at seven, read political 
leaders aloud to her father, discussed poli- 
tics with him in his study, and expounded 

20 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

them at length to her juniors, when in 
any other nursery in Christendom they 
would have been lisping Three Little 
Pigs Went to Market, and making round, 
pitiful eyes over The Babes in the Wood. 
For text-books the pupils had such manuals 
and helps to learning as the father had used 
in preparing himself for Cambridge, sup- 
plemented by his inexhaustible memory. 

The morning session over, the children 
were committed to Sarah De Garrs until 
dinner-time. To her patient tutelage the 
girls owed much of the skill with the needle 
which was remarkable with each at a very 
tender age. At five, Charlotte's wee fingers 
made a linen chemise for her own wear, 
with no other help than the cutting and 
basting done by Sarah. 

"Of course," relates the whilom nurse, 
"she had been a long while at it, as they 
only sewed an hour each afternoon. But 
it was clean and well done. Charlotte was 
always a thoughtful, neat, womanly child." 

When the chemise was finished, and the 
basting-threads withdrawn, Sarah led the 
little seamstress into her mother's chamber 
to exhibit her handiwork. 

The suggested scene is interesting, and 

The Six Babies 2 1 

falls in well with the scheme of Charlotte 
Bronte's unique life-history. She was al- 
ways small for her age, quiet in speech, 
and noiseless in her motions, reminding be- 
holders of a timid, bright-eyed bird. In 
"Mamma's room " she would glide like a 
shadow, and have to stand on tiptoe to 
hold up the small garment for the bed- 
ridden judge's inspection. 

When comparatively free from pain, Mrs. 
Bronte found entertainment in all that went 
on within the strait confines of her prison, 
asking her nurse to raise her among the 
pillows that she might see the grate pol- 
ished, "as it used to be done in Cornwall," 
— in the far-off Penzance she had never seen 
since she left its bland airs and perpetual 
flowering for the eventful visit to the John 
Fennells in 1812. 

She would be sure to magnify Charlotte's 
visit and achievement into an event, taking 
the scrap of linen in her wasted hands, 
and feigning critical examination of seam, 
and gusset, and band. Then would follow 
words of praise in the weak voice that 
never lost its sweet southern intonations, 
and the kiss that fully rewarded the little 
one for the " long while' the task was in 

22 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

doing, and the pains it had cost her to keep 
it clean. 

The children dined with their father. 
Little meat was served to them, and that 
little was plain roast or boiled. Mr. 
Bronte's Irish prejudices and habits inclined 
him to restrict their diet almost entirely to 
potatoes and milk for the noon meal. For 
sweets there were bread- and rice-pud- 
dings, custards, and other preparations of 
eggs and milk, slightly sweetened. Pastry 
and rich puddings were unknown quanti- 
ties in the family bill-of-fare. 

The afternoons spent by Mr. Bronte in 
parish visiting were the children's happiest 
seasons. Unless the weather were actually 
tempestuous, they donned hats and coats 
and took the uphill path to the breezy 
downs, accompanied by Sarah De Garrs. 

"My sister Emily loved the moors," 
wrote Charlotte in her womanhood. 
"Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed 
in the blackest of the heath for her. Out 
of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside, her 
mind could make an Eden. " 

For " Emily," read "the Bronte children." 
The sweep and wide reaches of the uncul- 
tivated tracts billowing against the sky, 

The Six Babies 23 

the clouds that made the heath black, the 
sunlight that glorified the livid hillsides, 
— were their universe. Once beyond the 
Parsonage fields and environing cottages, 
their repressed spirits broke forth. 

"Their afternoon walks, as they sallied 
forth, each neatly and comfortably clad, 
were a joy. Their fun knew no bounds," 
says the affectionate nurse. " It never was 
expressed wildly. Bright and often dry, 
but deep, it occasioned many a merry burst 
of laughter. They enjoyed a game of 
romps, and played with zest." 

They knew every bird by sight and 
name, and the habitat and properties of 
every plant growing wild in their beloved 
solitudes. The change of seasons was 
reckoned by the budding, the blooming, 
and the blighting of the heather. The 
passionate love of Nature, in her sombre, 
and in her blithe moods, that makes Char- 
lotte's slightest descriptive sketch of moon- 
rise, or sunset, or rain-storm perfect in 
drawing and in col6ur, was fostered by 
face-to-face communion with the Mighty 

Strolling reluctantly homeward as pru- 
dent Sarah detected the creeping of evening 

24 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

shadows and chill from the valleys, they 
found tea awaiting them, in the kitchen, 
if the weather were cold, in the long sum- 
mer evenings, in the parlour. Mr. Bronte 
came in later and tea was served in his 
study. He assembled the children about 
the table in the parlour when the tea-tray 
was taken off, for recitation and talk, giv- 
ing them oral lessons in history, biography, 
or travel, while the little girls plied their 
needles. The story told in the evening 
was to be written down, or repeated to 
him as part of the morrow's lesson. 

The uneventful day was closed by a short 
visit to their mother's room. While she 
could listen to them, the little ones said 
their nightly prayers at her bedside, kissed 
her "good-night," and stole away softly 
to "warm, clean beds," as Sarah De Garrs 
is careful to specify. 

To the close of his long life, Mr. Bronte 
was more the soldier than the divine. He 
carried his martinet system of work and 
recreation into the minutest detail of parish 
and family duties. Method, law, obedience, 
were his watchwords. It was an age of 
educational "fads." La Nouvelle Heloise 
and English Sandford and Merlon had put 

The Six Babies 25 

new ideas into the minds of parents and 
instructors. Witii the Vicar of Haworth 
idea leaped into action at birth. The word 
"heredity" had not been coined then, but 
he had a certain belief in blood, and in the 
influence of descent upon the growing child. 
He believed, with all his rugged strength, 
in environment, and he made it for his 
young family. Walls of impassable reserve 
were raised between them and the people 
of their own caste within a radius of twenty 
miles who might, otherwise, have made 
overtures of sociability to the Parsonage. 

Mrs. Bronte's ill-health sufficed, while 
she lived, to excuse the lack of neighbour- 
liness. By the time she died the household 
habits were fixed; the father's views began 
to be comprehended, and, 1 need not say, 
to be resented. The sort of Swiss Family 
Robinson colony set up in the old grey 
house at the top of the churchyard was an 
obnoxious novelty to Yorkshire squire and 
dame. It was less tolerable to their notions 
of congruity and civility because artisans 
and day-labourers approved of "a parson 
who minded his own business and did n't 
meddle with theirs," and his children were 
trained to speak politely and kindly to 

26 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

their humble neighbours when they chanced 
to meet them. 

Nothing surprised me more in my inter- 
course with those of Mr. Bronte's cottage 
parishioners who recollect him well, than 
the genuine liking for him expressed by 
them all. Grey-headed Saturday night 
loungers in the " Black Bull " tap-room vie 
with one another in relating stories of his 
"jolly ways " and his freedom from offens- 
ive pride. How he stopped on his way to 
church to laugh at a fight his dog got into 
with a vicious tramp cur, and " wor main 
sorry he cud na' stay to see it oot. He 
wor sure his dawg wad get the best o't." 
How he could call by name everybody he 
met in his long tramps over hill and dale, 
if he or she were his parishioner, and 
never forgot to ask after ailing wife or 
child. How he would walk fifteen miles 
in the teeth of snow or sleet, to "get him- 
self into a glow-loike," and "care nought 
for his wet coat and frozen breeches." All 
agree that "the family kep' theirselves 
verra close. As indeed they had a roight 
to do, if they loiked." 

Sarah De Garrs's emphatic declaration 
that "Mr. Bronte was at all times a gen- 

The Six Babies 27 

flenmii, never showing temper in the 
least, tender in the sick-room and kind 
to his children " — confirms the impressions 
gained from tap-room and cottage gossip, 
to wit, that the popular verdict upon the 
eccentric recluse (in which I had heretofore 
heartily acquiesced) may have been one- 
sided and unjust. 

"He never gave me an angry word !" 
is one of the three recorded sayings of his 
devoted wife. 

Her love and his daughter's steadfast 
filial piety may have had more warrant in 
his character and behaviour than the major- 
ity of the Bronte cult are ready to admit. 


mrs. bronte's death — miss branwell 

children's home education 

CHARLOTTE BRONTE was but five 
years old when the six children 
were led, in solemn ceremony, to their 
mother's room to see her die. 

The day was September 15, 1821. The 
weary agony of the cureless malady had 
lasted a year and a half. Yet enough vital- 
ity remained in the emaciated frame to 
make death a struggle. So hard was it 
that, as an eye-witness told me, the knees 
were drawn up rigidly against the body, 
and could not be straightened when life 
was extinct. 

She had expressed the wish to her hus- 
band that "all the dear faces should be 
about her when she died," and the faithful 
Sarah carried Baby Anne in her arms when 

Mrs. Bronte's Death 29 

the summons came. The husband did not 
leave his post at his wife's pillow until, 
as he has inscribed upon her memorial- 
stone, " Her soul departed to her Saviour." 

Less aptly he added, — " Be ye also ready, 
for, in such an hour as ye think not, the 
Son of Man cometh. ' ' 

The long-suffering invalid, "always pa- 
tient, cheerful, and pious," had been not 
only ready, but expectant of the summons 
for many a sleepless night and tortured 

The poor body — so wasted that the won- 
der was how it had continued to hold the 
heroic soul thus long — was laid away under 
the pavement of the church. Mr. Bronte, 
reticent of sorrow as of all other deep emo- 
tions, readjusted the domestic machinery 
to move on as if jar and wrench had not 
been. Except that the little girls thereafter 
slept in the room over the parlour, their 
lives were little changed on the surface. To 
all but the deep-hearted Maria, — who had 
borne a most unchildlike part in the labours 
and cares that devolved upon the mistress 
of the fast-growing family, — the mother, 
when alive, was a shadowy figure, seen 
seldom, and then under such restraint of 

30 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

youthful spirits as cast a mysterious awe 
about the large upper chamber and its oc- 
cupant. She was soon a shadowy mem- 
ory to Charlotte and the other younger 

In the pacquet of letters — nine in all — 
written by her during her betrothal, pre- 
served by the widower, and never showed, 
even to her children, for a score of years 
after her decease, was an undated MS. 
entitled The Advantages of Poverty in Re- 
ligious Concerns. Upon the cover Mr. 
Bronte had written : 

" The above was written by my dear wife, 
and is for insertion in one of the religious 
periodicals. Keep it as a memorial of her. ' ' 

We should like to know whether or not 
the article was ever offered to any of the 
aforesaid religious periodicals, and why it 
was not printed. We are yet more inter- 
ested in asking when the essay was penned. 
Was it at Hartshead, while the young wife 
hugged the hope of being an ornament to 
her husband } or at Thornton, between the 
births that turned the slim family purse in- 
side out ? or in intervals separating one 
pain-paroxysm from the next, in the con- 
secrated "upper chamber" at Haworth .? 

Mrs. Bronte's Death 31 

Who was the baby in the cradle beside her, 
as she pursued a theme she should have 
known by heart, if ever author learned 
philosophy from experience ? 

One day in the autumn or winter suc- 
ceeding Mrs. Bronte's death, Charlotte came 
to her nurse, wild and white with the ex- 
citement of having seen "a fairy ' standing 
by Baby Anne's cradle. When the two ran 
back to the nursery, Charlotte flying on 
ahead, treading softly not to frighten the 
beautiful visitant away, no one was there 
besides the baby sleeping sweetly in the 
depths of her forenoon nap. Charlotte stood 
transfixed ; her eyes wandered incredu- 
lously around the room. 

" But she was here, just now ! " she in- 
sisted. " 1 really and truly did see her ! " 
— and no argument or coaxing could shake 
her from the belief. 

In excluding his children from the world 
of people and facts, Mr. Bronte drove the 
eager minds into the universe of imagina- 
tion. When they read or listened to a 
story, they forthwith proceeded to act it. 
Their "games" were founded upon what 
Maria read to them from the newspapers, 
and the tales brought forth from the father's 

32 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

mines of tradition, iiistory, and romance. 
Nothing escaped them. Startling melo- 
dramas and three-volume tales were con- 
structed upon advertisements in the Leeds 
Mercury, or a "Personal" in a stray copy 
of the Times. 

It is pleasant to find their young nurse 
cast for important parts in these plays. I 
copy, from a MS. dictated by her, the ac- 
count of a contretemps that interrupted the 
orderly progress of scenic adventure : 

" As an escaping Prince, with a counterpane for a 
robe, I stepped from a window on the limb of a cherry- 
tree, which broke and let me down. There was great 
consternation among tlie children, as it was Mr. Bronte's 
favourite tree, under which he often sat. 1 carried off the 
branch and blackened the place with soot, but the next 
day, JVlr. Bronte detained them a moment and began 
with the youngest, asking each pleasantly, ' Who 
spoiled my tree?' The answer was, 'Not I,' until it 
came to my turn. They were always loyal and true." 

Apropos of Anne's cradle and Charlotte's 
attachment to her nurse, is an anecdote of 
her petition to her father, when Anne had 
outgrown the little bed, that it should be 
sent to Sarah's mother, whose baby " would 
just fit it." The request was granted, and 
the story is gratefully recollected by the 
family who received the gift. 

Everyday Duties 33 

So passed an uneventful year. The 
course of daily duty and recreation was 
like clockwork, — prayers, breakfast, les- 
sons in the study, the early dinner, the 
walks on the moors, the nurse guiding the 
baby's steps, and lifting Patrick and Emily 
over rough places; tea in the clean, roomy 
kitchen; sewing and the informal historical 
lecture until bedtime. Of this twelve- 
month — her last in the Parsonage — the 
aged nurse says, with a savour of loving 
jealousy, passing pathetic: 

"Their lives were not narrow. They 
had the nicest system in all that they 
did, and were a very reserved family, 
but they found much enjoyment where 
others could see none. They were verj> 

Maria was eight on the i6thofMay, 1821, 
when she "finished her Sampler." Eliza- 
beth finished hers "at the age of seven 
years," on the 27th of July. Did the fading 
woman, on whose bed they were laid for 
inspection as Charlotte's chemise had been, 
tell each girl of the more elaborate perform- 
ance in cross-stitch, "ended" April 15, 
1 79 1, by Maria Bran well, lettered, thread 
by thread, with a text she — sweet soul ! — 

34 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

surely had then, nor ever, occasion to heed 
as an admonition ? 

" Flee from sin as from a serpent, for if 
thou comest too near to it, it will bite thee. 
The teeth thereof are as the teeth of a lion 
to slay the souls of men. 

On rainy days, — and they are many in the 
Yorkshire uplands, — and when " Papa was 
studying," the "little mother" still gathered 
her brood in the room overlooking church- 
yard and church tower, and read to them 
by the hour in the subdued tones learned 
in the months when a sudden laugh 
or incautious exclamation might disturb 
" Mamma " next door. Not one of the 
girls had a doll ! They enacted wars, 
and prison-scenes, and heroic adventures 
of prince and knight, and fairy-tales — but 
they never "played ladies," or had dolls' 
tea-parties, or " went visiting" to different 
corners of the small room ("the children's 
study," as the De Garrs sisters named it), 
bedecked with table-covers for cashmere 
shawls, and feather-dusters for ostrich- 
plumes; never drove a team of chairs lashed 
together, or rode horseback sitting side- 
ways on the balustrade. What wonder 
that they grew up at once demure and un- 

Miss Branwell 35 

conventional, prim and lawless, shy and 
daring ? 

We are not told if it were kind busybody, 
or a stirring of worldly wisdom in his own 
independent spirit, that suggested to Mr. 
Bronte the need of other society for his 
motherless girls than that of paid employ- 
ees, however intelligent and affectionate. 
The average widower, thus situated, seeks 
to secure fitting associations and guiding 
care for the young creatures by a second 
marriage. Mr. Bronte, loving his liberty 
and his children, sent to Penzance for his 
sister-in-law. Miss Elizabeth Branwell, for 
whom his wife had named their second 

Miss Branwell was middle-aged; she was 
provincial. Her prejudices, which were 
many, had rooted themselves stubbornly in 
forty-five years' residence in one place, and 
that a country town. The change from 
the southlands to the bleak, hilly village 
was a formidable plunge for one of her sex 
and age. Penzance was always home, 
Haworth a foreign country. In her rounds 
of the house whose walls and floors were 
of stone, and where icy draughts stole in 
through cracks in the badly fitting window- 

36 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and door-frames, the prudent spinster 
wrapped a shawl about ears and shoulders 
and shod her feet with iron pattens, the 
click of which set her nieces' teeth on edge. 
Their father might ignore, or misapprehend, 
the protest against Yorkshire barbarities. 
They loved their country and their home 
too ardently not to feel the significance of 
shiver, and shawl, and foot-gear. What- 
ever dreams they may have indulged, be- 
fore her advent, of motherly love and 
sympathy, such as they had never tasted 
except in brief and tantalising sips, they 
were speedily dissipated by their aunt's 
talk and deportment. 

Mrs. Bronte, although the youngest, by 
several years, of four sisters, was looked up 
to by her family as the most promising 
member of the Branwell connection. She 
intimated this modestly to her lover, prior 
to their marriage, regretting "the disad- 
vantage of having been for some years 
perfectly her own mistress," and saying 
how deeply she had "felt the want of a 
guide and instructor." Her kinspeople 
regarded her as "possessing more than 
ordinary talents, which she inherited from 
her father." Miss Branwell was sensible. 

Miss Branwell 37 

commonplace, and practical in the extreme, 
without an atom of intellectuality. Judged 
by Cornish standards — and she had at fifty 
no other — the condition of her brother-in- 
law's home was enough to raise the grey- 
ing hair under her cap with dismay. She 
and Mr. Bronte seem to have hit it off re- 
markably well for two people of utterly 
dissimilar training, tastes, and habits, each 
of whom was irrevocably addicted to his 
and her own opinions. She had the true 
middle-class Briton's reverence for his pro- 
fession, and the British spinsterly respect 
for masculinity in the abstract. We hear 
of no altercations; each seems to have val- 
ued the good qualities of the other; the 
widower was profoundly appreciative of 
Miss Branwell's notable housewifery and 
her honest desire to do her best for his un- 
mothered offspring, and his name stood 
first among the executors of the will drawn 
up by her when she had been an inmate of 
the Parsonage for ten years. 

The four elder girls were an enigma to 
her. They were bashful, they were awk- 
ward, they lived in their books, and their 
bookish talk was affected gibberish to her. 
They had no society and wanted none; 

38 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

they cared nothing for becoming clothes. 
Maria was untidy, and Emily had the eyes 
of a half-tamed creature of another race 
than the decorous Branwells. All that was 
most womanly in the newcomer gathered 
about Anne — "the sweet, loving baby" 
of Sarah De Garrs's reminiscences. From 
the beginning she was the aunt's favourite, 
and, by virtue of his handsome face, his sex, 
and winning ways, Branwell came next. 

The new manager forthwith reorganised 
the domestic staff, and, with wise thrift, 
cut down expenses wherever it was 
practicable. Her activity in this direction 
had something to do with Mrs. Gaskell's 
allusion in the Life of Charlotte Bronte 
to "wasteful young servants," a charge re- 
futed by Mr. Bronte's testimonial to their 
kindness to his children, their honesty and 
carefulness "in regard to food and all other 
articles committed to their charge." 

Miss Branwell's chamber was a sort of 
industrial schoolroom where the four elder 
girls were trained in every description of 
plain sewing, darning, and knitting. They 
had their apprenticeship also in the kitchen 
that was a model of neatness and order for 
every other in the county. From peeling 

Children's Home Education 39 

the potatoes that formed so important a 
part of their food, to making the family 
bread, compounding the far-famed York- 
shire tea-cake and oaten scones, cutting up 
meat for hash, and cooking broths for sick 
cottagers, — her tuition was strict and exact. 
She made dainty housewives of them all by 
the time Maria was ten and Charlotte seven. 
A graphic picture of the group of father 
and children at this date occurs in a letter 
from Mr. Bronte to Charlotte's friend and 
biographer, Mrs. Gaskell. It has been often 
quoted, but my story would be incomplete 
without it, not only because it exhibits, as 
no other narrator has been able to show, 
the radical peculiarities of the father's sys- 
tem of education, and the characteristics of 
each child, already marked, but because it 
places the teacher in a more amiable light 
than that in which we are generally dis- 
posed to regard him. 

" When mere children, as soon as they could read 
and write, Charlotte and her brother and sisters used to 
invent and act little plays of their own, in which the 
Duke of Wellington, my daughter Charlotte's hero, was 
sure to come off conqueror ; when a dispute would not 
infrequently arise amongst them regarding the compara- 
tive merits of him, Buonaparte, Hannibal, and Caesar. 
When the argument got waim, and rose to its height, as 

40 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

their mother was dead, I had sometimes to come in as 
arbitrator, and settle the dispute according to the best 
of my judgment. 

"When — as far as 1 can remember — the oldest was 
about ten years of age and the youngest about four, 
thinking that they l<new more than I had yet discovered, 
in order to mal<e them speak witli less timidity, 1 deemed 
that if they were put under a sort of cover I inight gain 
my end, and, happening to have a mask in the house, I 
told them all to stand and speak boldly from under 
cover of the mask. 

" I began with the youngest (Anne, afterwards Acton 
Bell) and asked ' what a child like her most wanted. ' 
She answered, 'Age and experience.' I asked the next 
(Emily, afterwards Ellis Bell) what 1 had best do with 
her brother Branwell, who was sometimes a naughty 
boy. She answered, ' Reason with him, and when he 
won't listen to reason, whip him ! ' 1 asked Branwell 
' what was the best way of knowing the difference be- 
tween the intellects of man and woman.' He answered, 
' By considering the difference between them as to their 
bodies. ' 1 then asked Charlotte ' what was the best 
book in the world.' She answered, 'The Bible.' 
' And what was the next best ? ' She aiiswered, ' The 
Book of Nature.' I then asked next ' what was the best 
mode of education for a woman.' She answered, 
'That which would make her rule her house well.' 

"Lastly, 1 asked the oldest (Maria) 'what was the 
best mode of spending time.' She answered, ' By lay- 
ing it out in preparation for a happy Eternity.' 

" I may not have given precisely their words, but I 
have nearly done so, as they made a deep and lasting 
impression on my memory. The substance, however, 
was exactly what 1 have stated." 



THE winter of 1823-24 brought increase 
of care to Miss Branwell, and anxiety 
to her brother-in-law. Measles and whoop- 
ing-cough were prevalent in Haworth, and 
the children at the Parsonage did not escape 
infection. Maria and Elizabeth had both 
diseases at once, and coughed far into the 
spring. The younger children rallied more 
quickly. The convalescence of the older 
sisters may have been retarded by their 
sedentary habits and closer confinement to 
the house. The bracing air of the upper 
moors would be recommended as a specific 
for whooping-cough by the modern country 

While the four lesser children raced over 

the heather and spent all their half-holidays 

under the open sky, Maria and Elizabeth 

sat and sewed with their aunt upon the 


42 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

outfit they were to take with them to 
school the first of July. 

The home-circle was to be broken at last ; 
the moorland nest was stirred. Father, 
aunt, Mr. Bronte's clerical brethren, and 
their benevolent consorts, were agreed as 
to the expediency of sending the girls to 
boarding-school. They were bright learn- 
ers, undoubtedly, and in one way and 
another had acquired, if they had not as- 
similated, an enormous amount of mis- 
cellaneous information, most of which 
would be utterly useless in future life. 
They had no accomplishments, and pro- 
ficiency in these was not attainable in 
Haworth. Their father could teach them 
Greek and Latin, but not French or Ger- 
man, music and drawing. If they would 
not be at a hopeless disadvantage when 
compared with other girls and young wo- 
men of their station, a change was imper- 
atively needed. 

The school indicated by Providence, and 
an advisory committee of the aforemen- 
tioned well-wishers, had been in successful 
operation for a year at the village of Cowan 
Bridge, not far from Leeds. It was founded 
by a clergyman, and was what we would 

School Life at Cowan Bridge 43 

stigmatise as "a lialf-chiaritable organisa- 
tion," designed expressly for the daugliters 
of impecunious clergymen. Mr. Bronte 
had five girls and a small income. For 
fifteen pounds a year each of his daughters 
could be taught grammar, writing, arith- 
metic, ail kinds of needlework, with a 
practical knowledge of clear starching 
and laundrywork in general, history, geo- 
graphy, with the use of the globes, and for 
three pounds more, music or drawing. The 
uniform of the school was adapted to the 
slender means of the semi-patrons, semi- 
beneficiaries, whose offspring were to reap 
the advantages of the institution: white 
frocks on Sunday, nankeen on week-days ; 
purple stuff frocks, with cloth cloaks of 
the same colour, in winter. The outfit 
of frock, cloak, bonnet, tippet, and frills 
was furnished by the trustees, each pupil 
bringing three pounds for the purchase 

Moderate as the terms sound, it was 
necessary for Mr. Bronte to pay one hun- 
dred and eighty dollars yearly for his two 
girls, thirty dollars more if they wished to 
study music or drawing. The Haworth 
living has never, I am told, been worth 

44 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

more than two hundred and fifty pounds 
per annum, and while money went farther 
then than now, a family of eight people, 
and two, or even one servant, must have 
practised strict economy to avoid running 
into debt. 

An old woman, a former parishioner of 
Mr. Bronte, described some of these frugal 
methods to me. She said that all the 
household sewing was done by Miss Bran- 
well and her nieces, even to making their 
own dresses. The girls, after they were 
grown, wore the same bonnets, without 
alteration of shape or trimming, for two 
years. The gowns and other clothing of 
the children were invariably whole and 
clean, but each article was mended as long 
as it would hold together ; their linen under- 
garments were darned by a thread until 
the original fabric scarcely appeared at all. 
They knit their own stockings and when 
holes were worn in them, imitated the 
stitch in darning after the Belgian fashion 
of which Caroline Helstone complained in 

How many heart-tremblings and qualms 
of prospective homesickness and yearnings 
over the dear ones to be left behind went 

School Life at Cowan Bridge 4==, 

with the stitching of chemises and gather- 
ing of petticoats and hemming of hand- 
kerchiefs, while the "little mother" and 
her almost twin in age wrought under 
their aunt's eye through the lengthening 
afternoons formerly devoted to roaming 
and dreaming aloud to one another, out of 
hearing of unsympathetic listeners, — it 
pains us to the heart to imagine. It is 
easy, as a rule, to transplant young shoots. 
These had struck their roots so deep that 
removal was agony. 

In my humble, individual opinion, the 
best boarding-school is a poor substitute 
for a tolerably good home. The "half- 
charity " at Cowan Bridge was a new or- 
ganisation, unseasoned, and stiff in the 
hinges. After weighing the pros and cons 
of the controversy that raged over the sub- 
ject after the publication of Jane Eyre and 
Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte, the 
impartial judge must credit much that 
Charlotte wrote of "Lowood" and her 
biographers corroboration of the same. 
There was all too much truth in the stories 
of badly cooked food, unkind (probably 
because cheap) under-teachers, and such 
evils of drainage and dampness as led to 

46 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the low fever that broke out in the school 
in 1825. 

1 have said that in Helen Burns Char- 
lotte embodied tender and mournful recol- 
lections of the "little mother" who had 
guided her first tottering footsteps, and left 
the image of a saintly martyr in her heart 
and soul. Whether the fare at Cowan 
Bridge school were good, as the defenders 
of the institution assert, or bad, as Char- 
lotte told Mrs. Gaskell it was, and made 
the worse "by the dirty carelessness of 
the cook, so that she and her sisters dis- 
liked their meals exceedingly," — there is no 
doubt that Maria's sojourn there was a 
period of suffering, borne with angelic pa- 
tience. She was " delicate, unusually clever 
and thoughtful for her age, gentle, and — un- 
tidy." Her mother had had no time to 
train her in habits of orderly neatness, 
with five other children racing upon the 
heels of the first-born, and since the child 
was able to run alone she had been too 
busy looking after the younger babies to 
think of herself. She had a cough when 
she entered the school, and it never left her. 
Charlotte tells us — and she never exagger- 
ated the truth — that the sisters, used to the 

School Life at Cowan Bridge 47 

dainty simplicity of the Parsonage table, 
were hungry all the time they were at 
Cowan Bridge. The porridge was often 
scorched; the rice- and custard-puddings 
were made with rain-water from a cistern 
that caught the wash from the roofs; so- 
called meat-pies were composed of the 
scrapings of plates and dishes, and the 
milk tasted of the unwashed pans in which 
it was kept. Maria studied far beyond 
her strength and was frequently ill, espe- 
cially as the winter approached, and the 
racking cough everybody took as a natural 
sequel of last winter's illness, wore upon 
lungs and nerves. 

An under-teacher, branded with infamy 
by Charlotte as "Miss Scatcherd," slept in 
a small chamber opening out of the fireless 
dormitory, and one morning when Maria, 
whose side had been blistered a day or so 
before to avert pleurisy, was slowly putting 
on her stockings in bed, " Miss Scatcherd 
issued from her room, and without asking 
for a word of explanation from the sick 
and frightened girl, took her by the arm, 
on the side to which the blister had been 
applied, and whirled her out into the mid- 
dle of the floor, abusing her all the time. 

48 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

for dirty and untidy Iiabits. " Mrs. Gasliell 
had tile tale from an eye-witness, and it 
agrees well with Charlotte's description of 
what her sister endured. 

Elizabeth, of whom we hear less than of 
the others, fared better when she was laid 
up for some days by a severe cut upon 
the head. The superintendent — "Miss 
Temple " oi Jane Eyre — kept her in her own 
room and took care of her until she was 
able to be about. From this lady we learn 
that the second daughter bore her suffering 
with the "exemplary patience" that was a 
family trait, and won much upon her nurse's 
esteem. The passing allusion to Elizabeth 
and her restful seclusion in the teacher's 
room is the one gleam of light in the Cowan 
Bridge episode, and it is faint enough. 

The two elder sisters seem to have made 
no complaint at home of food or teachers, 
or it was not considered worthy of atten- 
tion if such were entered, for Charlotte and 
Emily were enrolled as pupils in Septem- 
ber. The latter is said by Miss Temple to 
have been ' ' a darling child, under five years 
of age, and quite the pet nursling of the 
school." Charlotte is referred to as "a 
bright, clever little child." 

School Life at Cowan Bridge 49 

So bright, as the event proved, that 
nothing escaped her eyes, and nothing was 
lost from the retentive memory. So clever 
that her picture of these, the first months 
she had spent out of her home, is as sharp 
and vivid as an artist's proof etching from 
a master's hand. 

" We had to pass an hour every day in the open air. 
Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the 
severe cold. We had no boots ; the snow got into our 
shoes and melted there ; our ungloved hands became 
numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet. 
I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from 
this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed, and 
the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes 
into my shoes in the morning. Then, the scanty supply 
of food was distressing. With the keen appetites of 
growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive 
a delicate invalid. Whenever the famished great girls 
had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the 
little ones out of their portion. Many a time I have 
shared between two claimants the precious morsel of 
brown bread distributed at tea-time, and, after relin- 
quishing to a third half the contents of my mug of coffee, 
1 have swallowed the remainder with an accompaniment 
of secret tears, forced from me by the exigency of 

" Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season. 
We had to walk two miles to church. We set out 
cold ; we arrived at church colder. During the morning 
service we became almost paralysed. It was too far to 
return to dinner, and an allowance of cold meat and 

50 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

bread, in the same penurious proportion observed in our 
daily meals, was served round between tlie services. 

" At the close of the afternoon service we returned by 
an exposed and hilly road, where the bitter winter wind, 
blowing over a range of snowy summits to the north, 
almost flayed the skin from our faces. 

" How we longed for the light and heat of a blazing 
fire when we got back ! But to the little ones, at 
least, this was denied. Each hearth in the schoolroom 
was immediately surrounded by a double row of great 
girls, and behind them the younger children crouched 
in groups, wrapping their starved arms in their pinafores. 

"A little solace came at tea-time in the shape of a 
double ration of bread — a whole, instead of a half-slice — 
with the delicious addition of a thin scrape of butter. 
It was the hebdomadal treat to which we all looked 
forward from Sabbath to Sabbath. I generally contrived 
to reserve a moiety of this bounteous repast for myself, 
but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with." 

Should it seem incredible that Mr Bronte 
and Miss Branwell, but half-a-day's journey 
distant from Cowan Bridge, suspected no- 
thing of privations which endangered the 
girls' lives, we must hark back to other ac- 
counts of the singular unconcern manifested 
at that day by parents in every rank of 
society with respect to the school experi- 
ences of their children. They were passed 
over, body and soul, to instructors paid to 
conduct their education. Punishments were 

School Life at Cowan Bridare s i 


severe, and, to our notion, barbarous in 
variety and ingenuity. Tlie ferule, the rod, 
dunce-cap and stool, the dark room, fasting 
upon bread and water for a week at a time, 
— were some of the commonest and mild- 
est penances inflicted for imperfect lessons, 
untidiness, and trivial lapses in speech and 
deportment. Home letters were supervised 
before they were posted, and any symptom 
of discontent was summarily punished. 
All of this belonged to the educational sys- 
tem which found favour in our forefathers' 
eyes, and is affectionately alluded to by 
purblind sentimentalists of our generation 
as "the good old times." 

Furthermore, let us consider the im- 
probability that the four Haworth exiles 
formulated any complaint against school 
and teachers. Charlotte explains their sub- 
mission to the grievous present in one 
sentence uttered by Helen Burns. 

"You must wish to leave Lowood.?" 
queries Jane Eyre. 

"No. Why should I? 1 was sent to 
Lowood to get an education, and it would 
be of no use going away until I have attained 
that object." 

The love of learning for learning's sake 

52 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

was already a passion with the home-bred 
pupils, so much older in mind than in body. 
In words that to our imaginations burn 
and throb along the printed page, Charlotte 
depicts the unfolding of her intellect and 
fancy under the tuition she received that 
otherwise dour and fateful winter. As we 
read, we are reminded of the efflorescence 
of some gorgeous tropical plant, in its na- 
tive soil, and in the fulness of its own 
season. Biting cold, pinching hunger, and 
small tyrannies are forgotten or minimised. 

" I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to 
my efforts. My memory, not naturally tenacious, im- 
proved with practice ; exercise sharpened my wits. In 
a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class ; in less 
than two months I was allowed to commence French 
and drawing. 1 learned the first two tenses of the verb 
^tre and sketched my first cottage on the same day. 
That night, on going to bed, 1 forgot to prepare in 
imagination the Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, 
or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont 
to amuse my inward cravings. 1 feasted, instead, on the 
spectacle of ideal drawings which I saw in the dark ; all 
the work of my own hands ; freely pencilled houses and 
trees, picturesque rocks and ruins, Cuyp-like groups of 
cattle, sweet paintings of butterflies hovering over un- 
blown roses, of birds picking at ripe cherries, of wrens' 
nests enclosing pearl-like eggs, wreathed about with 
young ivy sprays. 1 examined, too, in thought, the 

School Life at Cowan Bridge 53 

possibility of my ever being able to translate currently 
a certain little French story-book which Madame Pierrot 
had, that day, shown me ; — nor was that problem 
solved to my satisfaction ere I fell sweetly asleep." 



" 1 have not the least hesitation in saying that, upon 
the whole, the comforts were as many and the privations 
as few at Cowan Bridge as can well be found in so large 
an establishment. How far young, or delicate, children 
are able to contend with the necessary evils of ^ public 
school is, in my opinion, ^ very grave question, and 
does not enter into the present discussion." 

The extract from the letter of a former 
teacher in the Cowan Bridge School, while 
offered in vindication of the founder and 
managers of the institution in question, 
leaves the case of the Bronte sisters to the 
judgment of those who have heard Char- 
lotte's version of it, and Mrs. Gaskell's 
sifting of the evidence laid before her at a 
much later date. 

The four daughters of the Haworth clergy- 
man were altogether too young and too 


Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth 5 s 

delicate to be subjected to the obvious 
chances and rude changes of a boarding- 
school conducted upon strictly economical 
principles, even had their previous training 
been that of the ordinary little girl of the 
period, born and bred in a rural parsonage. 

A low fever, approximating typhus, ap- 
peared among the pupils in the spring of 
1825. Charlotte's account of the dread 
visitant is doubtless as accurate as it is 
thrilling. The opening sentence frames the 
picture : 

"That forest-dell, where Lowood lay, 
was the cradle of fog and fog-bred pesti- 
lence, which, quickening with the quicken- 
ing spring, crept into the Orphan Asylum, 
breathed typhus through its crowded 
schoolroom and dormitory, and, ere May 
arrived, transformed the seminary into a 

In the stricter surveillance of the girls' 
health consequent upon the alarm, Maria 
Bronte's condition came under the notice 
of attendant physicians. She had escaped 
the fever, but was pronounced to be far 
gone in consumption. Her father, sum- 
moned imperatively, was amazed and hor- 
rified at finding her changed almost beyond 

56 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

recognition since he had last seen her, and 
hurried her home without a day's delay. 
She was lifted into the Leeds coach, propped 
against pillows, and her sisters kissed for 
the last time the white face pitifully wasted 
and small, lighted by great eyes whose 
" singular beauty was of meaning, of move- 
ment, of radiance." The eyes rested that 
night upon the home for which she had 
longed in unuttered and unutterable heart- 
sickness through the year of exile. The 
breath of the moors, the pure sweep of the 
wind over the dear and remembered hills, 
could not fill the shattered lungs. For less 
than a week she lay, smiling and patient, in 
the chamber where her mother had lan- 
guished for so long, awaiting the summons 
for which the name-daughter now listened ; 
looking through the same window upon 
the square tower silhouetted against the 
sky. Maria passed quietly away on the 
sixth of May, and was buried beside her 
mother under the church floor. 

Less than a fortnight afterward, the coach 
stopped at Cowan Bridge Seminary for an- 
other sick child. The authorities, awakened 
from apathy by the tidings of Maria Bronte's 
death so soon after leaving the school as 

Deaths of Maria and Elizabeth 5 7 

to disparage the sanitary conditions of tlie 
place, or the care she had had there, were 
uneasy at Elizabeth's racking cough and 
the clear pallor of her complexion. Medical 
examination showed that she, also, was in 
the last stages of phthisis. She was made 
ready hurriedly and sent off to Haworth 
under the care of a trustworthy attendant. 
News of her death on June 15th reached 
Charlotte and Emily just before the mid- 
summer holidays to which they were 
looking forward with feverish eagerness. 

It passes our understanding, knowing 
what we do, at this distance from the time 
and scene of the piteous little tragedy, that 
Mr. Bronte should have returned the two 
girls to Cowan Bridge in September. Par- 
tial elucidation is furnished by the teacher's 
letter from which an extract was made 
awhile ago. 

"During both these visits" (/. e., when 
he brought Maria and Elizabeth in July, and 
again Charlotte and Emily in September, 
1824) " Mr. Bronte lodged at the school, sat 
at the same table with the children, saw the 
whole routine of the establishment, and, so 
far as 1 have ever known, was satisfied with 
everything that came under his observation. " 

^8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" The two younger children enjoyed uni- 
formly good health/' is an italicised sen- 
tence that weakens the force of that which 
preceded it when we learn that both 
these younger children were taken from the 
school before the winter closed in. "It 
was evident that the damp situation of the 
house at Cowan Bridge did not suit their 
health." We hope it was the father who 
took alarm at the unchildlike gravity that, 
like a frost in springtime, had struck the 
brightness out of Charlotte's face, and at 
the spiritless diligence with which she per- 
formed tasks in which she formerly revelled. 

She cherished the memory of her dead 
sisters as long as she lived as " wonders of 
talent and kindness." She gave Maria im- 
mortality as "Helen Burns." Called sud- 
denly and terribly to take the eldest sister's 
place to the three whom Maria had borne 
in her arms and her heart from the hour of 
their birth until the day when Branwell and 
Anne were lifted to her bed for a farewell 
kiss from her stiffening lips — Charlotte left 
childhood behind her forever. Mrs. Gas- 
kell says "the duties that now fell upon 
her seemed almost like a legacy from the 
gentle little sufferer." 

Maria's Successor 59 

What Maria had suffered in the ungenial 
atmosphere of the semi-charity school was 
burned into Charlotte's mind, as witness 
Jane Eyre. Maria's motherly solicitude, 
her graces of mind and heart, the singular 
absence of low and selfish motives in all 
that she said and did, made up an exemplar 
which her successor in the home strove, in 
the like unselfish spirit, to follow. 

The home-coming in the late autumn, 
when the hillsides were "livid," when the 
plover had gone southward, and the hardier 
swifts flew low in the gusty afternoons, 
was comfort rather than happiness. In 
the long walks, at once resumed and never 
discontinued by her as girl and woman, it 
was Charlotte who looked after the feebler 
children, repressed Branwell's sauciness, 
and mediated between him and Emily, — his 
"chum" among his sisters, yet the one 
with whom he oftenest quarrelled. The 
lessons in the father's study were taken up 
as if they had never been laid aside, — Bran- 
well and Anne bringing the class back to 
the original size. Miss Branwell drilled her 
nieces in thrift and needlework. A middle- 
aged Haworth woman, wiry in body as in 
character, was installed as maid-of-all-work. 

6o Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and as "our Tabby," in time, got all of the 
household, the master not excepted, under 
her kindly yet despotic rule. 

Now and then, a clergyman from the 
neighbourhood, or from a distant parish, 
took dinner or tea with Mr. Bronte, or 
some school-meeting or clerical conference 
in the Haworth Church brought a batch of 
five or six to dine, sup, and sleep at the 
Parsonage. At such times " the children " 
sat at table, and about the fire in the even- 
ings, hearkening with open ears and non- 
committal faces to the professional talk, 
— each, all unsuspected by the subjects of 
the mental criticism, taking notes for future 
use. Other glimpses of what lay beyond 
the girdling hills they loved, they had none, 
save through books and newspapers. 

"We take two, and see three, newspapers a week," 
wrote Charlotte in her diary, complacently. " We take 
the Leeds Intelligencer, a most excellent Tory news- 
paper, and the Leeds Mercury, Whig, edited by IWr. 
Baines, and his brother, son-in-law, and his two sons, 
Edward and Talbot. We see the John Bull ; it is a 
high Tory, very violent. IVlr. Driver lends us it, as like- 
wise Blackwoods' Maga:(ine, the most able periodical 
there is. The editor is IVlr. Christopher North, an old 
man, seventy-four years of age ; the ist of April is his 
birth-day. His company are Timothy Tickler, Morgan 

Fireside Conclaves 6i 

O'Doherty, Macr:ibin Mordecai, MuUion, Warnell, and 
James Hogg, a man of most extraordinary genius, a 
Scottish sliepherd." 

The bookish talk is only redeemed from 
priggishness by the grave simplicity of the 
JLivenile critic. Books and periodicals were 
more alive to her than the inhabitants of 
the next parish. The story goes in the 
village that all four of the Parsonage child- 
ren were once invited to a child's birthday 
party at the house of one of the small gen- 
try in the neighbourhood. Then and there 
they underwent agonies of discomfort, first 
from bashfulness, and then from finding 
themselves the focus of twenty pairs of 
eyes, some pitying, some contemptuous, 
all amazed at the discovery that the three 
girls and one boy knew not one children's 
game — not even " Hunt the Slipper," or 
" Round about the Gooseberry Bush." 

We can imagine the indignant warmth 
of the discussion upon the events of the 
afternoon that went on over the kitchen 
fire that night, with perhaps Tabby as a 
sympathetic listener. She counted for 
nothing in the conclaves never held in the 
hearing of fother or aunt. We may be 
sure that "Slipper" and "Gooseberry 

62 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Bush " fared ill by comparison with their 
home diversions. 

"Our plays were established; — Young Men, June, 
1826 " (just a year after Elizabeth's death), wrote the 
bookish diarist ; " Our Fellows, July, 1827 ; Islanders, 
December, 1827. These are our three great plays that 
are not kept secret. Emily's and my best plays were 
established the first of December, 1827 ; the others', 
March, 1828. Best plays mean secret plays ; they are 
very nice ones. All our plays are very strange ones." 

Like the brains that invented, and the 
wits that carried them on. We are still in 
the dark as to the modus operandi of each 
after reading further : 

" 1 will try to sketch out the origin of our plays more 
explicitly if I can. First : Young Men. — Papa bought 
Branwell some wooden soldiers at Leeds. When Papa 
came home it was night, and we were in bed, so next 
morning Branwell came to our door with a box of sol- 
diers. Emily and 1 jumped out of bed, and 1 snatched 
up one, and exclaimed — ' This is the Duke of Welling- 
ton ! This shall be the Duke ! ' When 1 had said this, 
Emily likewise took up one and said it sliould be hers ; 
when Anne came down, she said one should be hers. 
Mine was the prettiest of the whole, and the tallest, and 
the most perfect in every part. Emily's was a grave- 
looking fellow, and we called him 'Gravey,' Anne's 
was a queer little thing, much like herself, and we 
called him ' Waiting Boy.' Branwell chose his, and 
called him ' Buonaparte.'" 

"The Children's study" h^ 

The date of this entry in Charlotte's jour- 
nal is 1829, when she was thirteen years old. 

As naturally as the oak is evolved from 
the acorn, living in books as with human 
companions led to the writing of books. 
The children had always been silent and 
repressed indoors. When pent up in the 
hall-room upstairs by days of continuous 
storm, they were as quiet now as when 
Maria hushed their prattle to whispers and 
enjoined them to laugh low because "poor 
mamma " was ill in the adjoining room. 
The aunt, "clicking about the stone stairs 
and halls in pattens," must have smiled con- 
tentedly in passing the closed door of what 
was never "the nursery" after Anne's 
cradle was taken away. After all, the 
children did credit to her training. If she 
glanced in at them occasionally, from the 
force of habit and conscience, she saw 
nothing unusual in their occupations. Paper, 
pencil, book, and pen were to them what 
doll-houses, kites, tops, and whips were to 
other girls and boys. Charlotte covered 
hundreds of pages of copy-books and the 
blank ends of old letters with minute char- 
acters one requires the aid of a magnifying- 
glass to decipher. Her favourite study was 

64 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the broad, high window-seat. Curled up 
like a kitten, she would write for hours 
without speaking, holding her paper close 
to her near-sighted eyes, a trick she was 
not cured of at Cowan Bridge. Emily 
sat on the floor, using her knees for a desk. 
Branwell would sprawl at full length, his 
chin supported by his hand, the book from 
which he read, or the paper on which he 
wrote, on the floor before him. Even little 
Anne scribbled stories with a pencil in 
"coarse hand" — as writing-teachers called 
it a generation back — by the time she was 
five years old. 

The scene is eerie as we sketch it to our- 
selves, — ^the uncanny group of small im- 
mortals, whose childhood was surely unlike 
any other ever lived in Christian and modern 
times; the intent faces and dreamful eyes 
bent over busy fingers ; the brooding silence, 
unbroken save by the moan of the wind 
and the plashing rain against the panes. 
What Charlotte saw when she raised her 
head to gaze through the window, she 
painted a score of years later, in a few 
masterly strokes : 

"There is only one cloud in the sky ; but it curtains 
it from pole to pole. The wind cannot rest ; it hurries 

" The Children's study " 65 

sobbing over hills of sullen outline, colourless with 
twilight and mist. Rain has beat all day on that 
church-tower. It rises dark from the stony enclosure of 
its church-yard ; the nettles, the long grass, and the 
tombs, all drip with wet." 

The little parallelogram of dooryard be- 
tween the Parsonage and the then treeless 
burial-ground, paved with weather-black- 
ened tombstones, is now filled with shrub- 
bery and flowers. When Charlotte surveyed 
it in the musing intervals of composition, 
a clump of stunted currant-bushes, some 
dwarf evergreens, and, on the wall, a patch 
of ivy, were all that relieved the monotone 
of grey and black. Right before her was 
the door in the wall which had been un- 
locked but three times since they came to 
Haworth to live, and would not be opened 
again until another coffin was ready to be 
borne through, down the sloping path to 
the church porch. Such was the custom 
of the region. The mute memento mori 
faced the door by which the living went in 
and out of their temporary dwelling in 
business pertaining to the life that now is. 




AMONG the incidents transmitted to us 
tending to prove that Mr. Bronte was 
not so indifferent to his children's happiness 
or so unobservant of their occupations as 
we have inclined to believe, we note two 
belonging to the five years spent by Char- 
lotte under his tutelage after her return from 
Cowan Bridge in the autumn of 1825. 

One has been given in her account of 
the origin of the "strange plays" invented 
by the four. If the father had a favourite 
in the flock it was his only son, — the hand- 
somest, and reckoned by family and neigh- 
bours to be the most brilliant of them all. 
The girls had no dolls, but a box of toy- 
soldiers was brought from Leeds for the 
petted boy. Still the father offered no ob- 





Early MSS. 67 

jection to the division of the puppets for 
the furtherance of the "play" of Young 

Mr. Shorter tells of a sixpenny blank- 
book given to Charlotte by her father, on 
the cover of which is written : 

"" All that is written in this book must be 
in a good, plain, and legible hand. — T. B. ' ' 

He was cognisant, then, of the scribbling 
propensities of his daughter, had probably 
had a glimpse of the MSS. done in micro- 
scopic characters, and gave a broad hint as 
to his wishes on that head. 

The earliest date affixed to any of the 
Bronte manuscripts is upon — as we ob- 
serve with surprise — an "exceedingly child- 
ish production," or so says Mr. Shorter, 
"By P. B. Bronte." The title is The 
Battle of Washington, and there are " full- 
page coloured illustrations." It was written 
in 1827, Bran well being then ten years old. 
From babyhood he fancied himself, and 
was believed by his kindred, to be an artist 

Charlotte made no such claim for herself, 
but her passionate love of the beautiful, the 
artistic tastes she had no opportunity to in- 
dulge, and, above all, the strong necessity 

68 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

of expression that consumed her like a rest- 
less fire, impelled her to use pencil with 
pen. Every engraving or sketch that came 
in her way was examined critically by the 
short-sighted eyes until she had seen all 
that was in it, and much that would escape 
an ordinary spectator. At this time she 
had a hope, secret and strenuous, of be- 
coming an artist, and practised drawing 
with painstaking assiduity. Knowing no- 
thing of rules and methods except from the 
few lessons she had had at Cowan Bridge, 
she set herself to copying engravings, line 
for line, work for which the long, delicate 
lingers of her tiny hands were especially 

"Stippling, 1 believe they call it," she 
wrote afterward of the misdirected labour. 
"I thought it very fine at the time." 

" Oh, 1 feel like a seed in the cold earth, 
Quickening at heart, and pining for the air ! " 

The lines recur to us continually in follow- 
ing the course of her life, so tame upon the 
surface, so tumultuous within. 

A quarter-mile or more down the street 
closed by churchyard and Parsonage, lived 
a joiner and cabinet-maker — a character in 

The Brontes as Artists 69 

his way, and with a warm side to his 
heart for the "Parson's children." His 
shop, on the second floor of his house, saw 
them more frequently than the interior of 
any other dwelling in the village. Hardly 
a week passed in which one or the other, 
sometimes all four, of the shy, grave-eyed 
students did not appear in the upper room 
— redolent of newly cut woods, paint, and 
varnish. They were always bound upon 
one errand. A picture in pencil or water- 
colours needed a frame, and a bargain was 
to be struck with Mr. Wood for it. With 
true Yorkshire and Bronte-esque independ- 
ence, not one of the artists would accept 
the frame as a gift. A piece of his or her 
own work was to be bartered for what was 
needed. As the frames were to be made 
of odd corners left over from larger pictures, 
scraps of cornices, door and window cas- 
ings, at second hand, or which had been 
cast aside as unavailable for other purposes 
by the workman, he would gladly have 
donated the materials and glued them into 
the requisite form for the pleasure of serv- 
ing the "odd, clever creatures." He knew 
them too well, and had too much native 
tact, to insist upon this point. So with 

70 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

genuine breeding and kindness, he accepted 
the poor little daub or scrawl, hunted up 
suitable stuff for the frame that was to en- 
close the picture reserved by the owner, 
and accounted it a business transaction. 

" He had a drawerful of the pictures he got in this 
way," his daughter told me. " When the young gen- 
tleman got older and could really paint, he did several 
large pictures for my father in exchange for bigger frames. 
One of these frames — quite large and heavy — was in- 
tended for a picture painted for Mr. Bronte. The sub- 
ject was Jacob's Ladder. Mr. Bronte thought so 
much of it that he hung it over his study mantel. One 
night, a candle was left accidentally too near it, and a 
corner of the frame took fire. You can see the painting 
in the Bronte Museum." 

From this family I heard a warm vindica- 
tion of Mr. Bronte from the charge of ex- 
cessive harshness to his motherless children, 
and neglect of their wants and feehngs. 
Here, too, I had the same testimony I had 
gathered from other parishioners, to his 
popularity with the poorer classes, and his 
indulgence in monetary matters. What- 
ever the people wanted they got if he could 
grant it. When the tithes were not paid, 
he would not press pew-renters for them. 
Sometimes he lost as much as ;£ioo per 

The Brontes as Artists 7 1 

annum by his "easy ways." That was 
one reason he was always poor. 

The aged widow of Mr. Wood repeated 
the story others had given me of Bran- 
well's many and dazzling gifts of mind and 
person. She had seen him, again and 
again, write two letters at once, one with 
each hand, talking brightly all the time 
upon a third subject — ■" Poor lad ! He 
might have been anything he pleased, if 
he had only kept steady ! I have wished, 
often and often, that we had kept the 
children's bits of drawings. They would 
be interesting now." 

1 cared not a jot for Jacob's Ladder, hav- 
ing seen enough of Branwell's pictures — all 
more or less wretched — to slake any curi- 
osity 1 may have felt on that head. 1 should 
have liked to have a peep at Charlotte's 
"stipplings" and the free-hand sketches 
by means of which she strove to make 
thought visible. 

She catalogues twenty-two books writ- 
ten by herself in those five years of house- 
work, desultory study, and browsing in her 
father's library of English classics ; of por- 
ing over political leaders, news of the na- 
tions, and literary reviews in the few 

72 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

newspapers which they saw, and " Black- 
wood's Magai/ne, the most able periodical 
there is." Some of her writings are in two 
volumes, some in three, some in four. 
There are tales, autobiographies, travels, 
political disquisitions, ballads and short 
poems, a drama, an epic, conversations, — 
all engrossed in the clear, small script that 
tantalises the average eyesight ; thousands 
upon thousands of words, written because 
she must write, and with no ulterior thought 
of publication. 

The Young Men's Magazine, in six num- 
bers, was printed with a pen by Charlotte 
for circulation in the "study," her two 
sisters and her brother constituting the 
whole number of subscribers and readers. 
Not one word of the tens of thousands was 
read to father or aunt. So long as the 
children were quiet and not in mischief, 
Miss Branwell did not trouble herself with 
their doings out of work-hours, and Mr. 
Bronte was more self-absorbed with each 
passing year of widowerhood. 

When Charlotte was fifteen he awoke to 
the conviction that she was no longer one 
of the children, and bestirred himself to 
find a school where she could be fitted to 

Miss Wooler's School 73 

do a woman's part in the working-day 
world. His choice fell, happily for all 
concerned, upon Miss Margaret Wooler's 
boarding-home for girls at Roe Head, a 
commodious country-house standing in its 
own grounds a little back from the Leeds 
coach-road, about twenty miles from 

The physical features of the two neigh- 
bourhoods are as unlike as if they were 
twenty leagues apart. The visitor to the 
sun-warmed slopes and pleasant pastures 
of the contiguous manor of Kirklees, in 
the heart of whose "immemorial wood" 
Robin Hood is said to be buried, turns, for 
the most graphic picture of the scene, to 
Charlotte's sketch of it in Shirley : 

" They looked down on the deep valley robed in May 
raiment ; on varied meads, some pearled with daisies, 
and some golden with king-cups. To-day all this young 
verdure smiled clear in sunlight ; transparent emerald 
and amber gleams played over it. On Nunnwood" 
(Kirklees) " — the sole remnant of antique British forest in 
a region whose lowlands were once all sylvan chase, as 
its highlands were breast-deep heather — slept the shadow 
of a cloud ; the distant hills were dappled ; the horizon 
was shaded and tinted like mother-of-pearl ; silvery 
blues, soft purples, evanescent greens and rose-shades, 
all melting into fleeces of white cloud, pure as azure 

74 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

snow — allured the eye as with a remote glimpse of 
heaven's foundations. The air blowing on the green brow 
of the Common was fresh, and sweet, and bracing." 

Beauty of this type was as new to the 
Haworth recluse as the friendships she was 
to form at Roe Head with Miss Wooler and 
the two girls who came to know her better 
than any other human beings ever did, ex- 
cept her sisters. Mary Taylor and Ellen 
Nussey were already domesticated in Miss 
Wooler's household when Charlotte was 
entered as a pupil. The Taylor sisters, 
Mary and Martha, were the daughters of a 
Yorkshire banker whose country-seat was 
but three miles from Roe Head. Charlotte 
has drawn the family with strength and 
spirit in Shirley as the "Yorkes." The 
fidelity of the portraiture is vouched for by 
one of Mary's brothers, the "Martin" of 
the novel, to whom the chapter depicting 
the household was submitted in MS. His 
only adverse criticism was that she "had 
not drawn them strongly enough." 

Mary, the elder of the girls, was " Rose 
Yorke" ; Martha was "Jessie." Miss 
Wooler thought Mary "too pretty to live " 
when she was brought to her school. 
Charlotte describes Mary's face as 

Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey 7s 

" not harsh, nor yet quite pretty. It is simple— childlike 
in feature; the round cheel<s bloom ; as to the grey eyes, 
they are otherwise than childlike — a serious soul lights 
them. She has a mind full-set, thick-sown 

with the germs of ideas her mother never knew. It is 
agony to her often to have these ideas trampled on and 
repressed. She has never rebelled yet ; but, if hard- 
driven, she will rebel one day, and then it will be once 
for all." 

As a pendant to this crayon-sketch, we 
have Mary's picture of Charlotte, as she 
saw her on a raw mid-January morning in 
the year 1831 : 

' ' 1 first saw her coming out of a covered cart, in very 
old-fashioned clothes, and looking very cold and miser- 
able. She was coming to school at iWiss Wooler's. 
When she appeared in the school-room, her dress was 
changed, but just as old. She looked a little old woman, 
so short-sighted that she always appeared to be seeking 
something, and moving her head from side to side to 
catch a sight of it. She was very shy and nervous, and 
spoke with a strong Irish accent. When a book was 
given her, she dropped her head over it till her nose 
nearly touched it, and when she was told to hold her 
head up, up went the book after it, still close to her nose, 
so that it was not possible to help laughing." * 

On the same day Charlotte Bronte and 
Ellen Nussey (the "Caroline Helstone " of 

*Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte. 

76 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Shirley) met for the first time. This young 
girl, then near Charlotte's own age — fifteen, 
lived with her brothers at Brookroyd, a fine 
old homestead four miles from Roe Head. 
Biographers are agreed that Charlotte drew 
no more correct portrait — and she never 
failed of "catching a likeness" — than in 
"Caroline Helstone," albeit the lonely, de- 
pendent niece of the austere rector of Briar- 
field differed widely in environment from the 
petted member of a large family, and with 
whom life had gone upon velvet from her 
babyhood. I give the portrait as Charlotte 
has painted it, love prompting each touch. 
As we read we can see a tender smile 
lighting up the great red-hazel eyes, of 
which Mrs. Gaskell says, "I never saw 
the like in any other human creature." 

" It was not absolutely necessary to know her in order 
to like her. She was fair enough to please, even at the 
first view. Her shape suited her age ; it was girlish, 
light, and pliant ; every curve was neat, every limb pro- 
portionate ; her face was expressive and gentle ; her 
eyes were handsome, and gifted, at times, with a win- 
ning beam that stole into the heart, with a language that 
spoke softly to the affections. Her mouth was very 
pretty ; she had a delicate skin, and a fine flow of 
brown hair which she knew how to arrange with taste ; 
curls became her, and she possessed them in picturesque 

Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey 77 

profusion. Her style of dress announced taste in tlie 
wearer ; very unobtrusive in fasliion, far from costly in 
material, but suitable in colour to the fair complexion 
with which it contrasted, and in make to the slight form 
which it draped." 

Coming softly, as it was her wont to 
move, into the schoolroom at the noon re- 
cess, Ellen espied a small figure shrinking 
into the recess of a window overlooking 
the playground. The ten or dozen girls 
who then composed the family-school were 
pelting one another with snowballs in the 
courtyard, their shrieks of laughter ringing 
clearly through the frozen air. The new 
pupil was crying quietly, wiping the tears 
furtively as they dropped, although she 
thought herself unseen. Her dress was 
uncouth, herself miserably bashful, as lost 
and forlorn as if the carrier's covered cart 
that had left her "to be called for," at Roe 
Head, had dumped her upon another planet. 

Did the memory of the interview that 
followed steal over the mind of the suc- 
cessful author when she wrote : — "Caro- 
line had tact, and she had fine instinct. 
She felt that Rose Yorke was a peculiar 
child — one of the unique. She knew how 
to treat her." 

78 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

So well did Ellen Nussey know how to 
treat the desolate waif blown thither from 
the moorland Parsonage, that she found 
her way right speedily to the sealed fount- 
ain of the stranger's heart, and kept her 
place there until it was chilled by death. 

As was to be expected, the Haworth 
girl's ignorance of text-books and conven- 
tional "education" was a woful stum- 
bling-block for a time to her advancement. 
Had Miss Wooler been the ordinary type 
of teacher, the drawback might have been 
almost fatal to the ambition to excel in her 
studies that inspired Charlotte to conquer 
homesickness and aversion to new associ- 
ations. She spoke with prim correctness, 
she wrote clear, nervous English, but she 
knew not one rule of English grammar. 
She had devoured all the books of travel 
she could get hold of, and several of her 
own composition were in the Catalogue 
of My Books, -with the Date of their Com- 
pletion, yet every child in the second class 
at Miss Wooler's had "gone further" in 
geography than she. That she was not 
classed with the "little girls" was due to 
her overwhelming distress when Miss 
Wooler delicately hinted her fear that it 

Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey 79 

would have to be done, and to that sensi- 
ble and tender-hearted woman's decision 
to give the odd duckling a fair chance to 
show what was in her. She was ranged, 
then, with Mary Taylor and Ellen Nussey, 
and the trio soon found and kept their 
places in the advance-guard of the home- 
school. Charlotte became the story-teller 
of the little band, as she had been to her 
larger audience at Cowan Bridge, beguiling 
wet out-of-school hours of tedium by tell- 
ing tales from the Young Men's Magazine 
and "out of her own head," and keeping 
her roommates awake into the forbidden 
hours by blood-curdling romances and 
ghost-stories. While the rest frolicked in 
the courtyard she sat under a tree, dividing 
her attention between a book, and the 
clouds in the sky, the lights and shadows 
of the landscape. When urged to take a 
hand in a ball-game, she acquiesced with 
amiable indifference, but soon dropped out 
because she could not see the ball when 
tossed high. In muscle she was flaccid, in 
motion languid unless excited to self-for- 
getfulness. She ate little of anything, and 
no meat at all. 
Once, Mary Taylor, redundant in vitality, 

8o Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and impatient of physical feebleness, told 
her new friend, with the frank brutality of 
the British schoolgirl, that she was homely 
and awkward. Long afterward she re- 
minded Charlotte of the rudeness and 
begged her forgiveness. 

"You did me good, Polly, so don't re- 
pent of it ! " was the reply, fraught with 
meaning which Mary could appreciate, 
knowing her as she did. 

Then, as always, Charlotte was abso- 
lutely free from personal vanity. Everyone 
who has heard of her name and fame knows 
of the argument with her sisters upon the 
"moral wrong" of making every heroine 
beautiful, and her boast, " 1 will show you 
a heroine as plain and as small as myself, 
who shall be as interesting as any of yours." 

The jesting promise was the germ of 
Jane Eyre. 

Mary Taylor was as outspoken in her sur- 
prise at the "things that were out of our 
range altogether " which Charlotte knew. 
She had read more books than they had 
ever heard of, and forgot nothing she had 
read ; was conversant with the works, and 
had some knowledge of the personnel, of 
every English author of note, speaking of 

" Cleverality " 8i 

them as naturally as her comrades chatted 
of their neighbours and kinspeople. 

"You are always talking about clever 
people — Johnson and Sheridan and the 
like ! " said one listener testily. 

Charlotte lost the captious spirit of the 
remark in the obvious incongruity of the 

"You don't know the meaning of 
'clever,' " she answered, in serious good 
faith; and, meditatively, "Sheridan might 
be clever. Yes ! Sheridan -ivas clever, — 
scamps often are, — but Johnson had n't a 
spark of cleverality in him." 

One cannot but wish the great Lexico- 
grapher had lived to hear the coined word, 
distinctive of a shade of meaning not 
reached by "cleverness." The occasional 
bons mots recalled by her intimates prove 
that she would have been as brilliant in 
talk as with pen, but for the stifled life she 
had led with respect to everybody and 
everything without the walls of the home 
where alone she was ever entirely and 
happily her real self. 



CHARLOTTE remained atMiss Wooler's 
school eighteen months, returning to 
Haworth in 1832. Limited as was the cir- 
cle of pupils and teachers that represented 
society to her during her absence from 
home, it was busy, lively, and stimulating 
by comparison with the routine to which 
Emily and Anne had been bound mean- 
while. Miss Branwell's "set ways" hard- 
ened into rigidity in her seclusion from the 
mild dissipations of Penzance tea-parties 
and family gatherings. In evidence of this, 
we are told that she never changed the 
style of her dress from what was "the 
thing" in Penzance when she left that 
place in 1823, and had her nieces' clothes 
made upon the same models. Even in 
Haworth they were "old-fashioned" in 

Home Again 83 

their Sunday best. Mr. Bronte had added 
to this effect by bringing his daughters up 
to despise fashion and finery. So long as 
their garments were whole and neat, none 
of them cared how they looked in other 
people's eyes. 

1 have heard much of this period of her 
life from an old Haworth resident who 
taught in the Sunday-school "turn and 
turn about " with Charlotte. That is, they 
had the same class on alternate Sundays, 
and of course had frequent occasion to 
consult upon matters connected with the 
scholars, all drawn from the working 

"Neat as neat could be," is the survivor's report. 
" Never a break in a shoe, or a rip in a glove. But it 
did not matter if her bonnet was four years old, and her 
gowns were always made the one way. She was very 
small — hardly bigger than a child of twelve, with such 
bits of hands and feet ! Pretty ? No ! I should say not 
— but pleasant of face. Her hair was light-brown — not 
red, as 1 am told some people have said it was. A very 
pretty colour, and never out of order. It did not curl, 
and she wore it parted in the middle and brought down 
each side of her face before it was put behind her ears — 
as the fashion was then. Her nose looked larger be- 
cause her face was thin ; her mouth was large, too, as 
you see it in her picture. Her only good feature was 
her eyes. They were a sort of reddish-brown, — a queer 

84 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

colour, but beautiful. When she talked they lighted up 
until I 've seen her look almost handsome. Her voice 
was pleasant, and the children liked her. She heard 
them say the Catechism, and psalms, and collects, and 
the like, but she never preached or talked much in the 

" She was not seen often in the village. Miss Bran- 
well or Tabby did the marketing, and there was nothing 
to call the Miss Brontes this way. When they walked, 
it was up over the moors. They would go miles and 
miles in that direction — always together, while there 
were three of them ; afterward the two, and then but 
the one. The walk out of the side-gate of the Parson- 
age and through the field at the back and so on over the 
hills to the waterfall, as much as three miles away, still 
goes by the name of ' Charlotte Bronte's favourite walk.' 
They were not so much what I should call ' unsociable ' 
as reserved. You see, they were brought up by them- 
selves, and it was n't easy to change when they were 
women grown. They would speak kindly and politely 
to anybody they happened to meet, and ask after sick 
people, and all that. They were never stiff, or what 
would be considered stuck-up. She was just as simple 
in her ways and as friendly as ever, after she became 

We are indebted, however, to Ellen Nus- 
sey, and to the correspondence between her 
and Charlotte, for distinct and circumstan- 
tial accounts of life in the Parsonage in the 
three years succeeding Charlotte's gradua- 
tion from Roe Head. In parting, the friends 

Home Again 85 

had engaged to exchange letters regularly 
every month. Mrs. Gaskell was painfully 
impressed, she says, with Charlotte's lack 
of hopefulness. When pleasure came she 
invariably met it with surprise, often min- 
gled with incredulity. "Too good to be 
true," was the language of thought, if not 
always of tongue. Sorrow, pain, disap- 
pointment, were familiar guests, received 
without complaint, and given the liberty 
of heart and home. We descry a touch of 
this in the opening sentences of the first of 
the many letters, treasured for forty years 
by true-hearted, steadfast Ellen. 

" Haworth, July 21, 1832. 
" My dearest Ellen : 

" Your kind and interesting letter gave me the sincer- 
est pleasure. I have been expecting to hear from you 
almost every day since my arrival at home, and I, at 
length, began to despair of receiving the vv'ished-for 

" You ask me to give you a description of the manner 
in which I have passed every day since 1 left school. 
This is soon done, as an account of one day is an account 
of all. In the mornings, from nine o'clock to half-past 
twelve, I instruct my sisters and draw ; then we walk 
'till dinner. After dinner 1 sew 'till tea-time, and after 
tea I either read, write, do a little fancy-work, or draw, as 
1 please. Thus, in one delightful, 'though somewhat 

86 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

monotonous course, my life is passed. I have only been 
out to tea twice since I came home. We are expecting 
company this afternoon, and on Tuesday next we shall 
have all the female teachers of the Sunday-school to tea. 

" I do hope, my dearest Ellen, that you will return to 
school again for your own sake, 'though for mine 1 
would rather that you would remain at home, as we 
shall then have more frequent opportunities of corre- 
spondence with each other. Should your friends decide 
against your returning to school, I know you have too 
much good sense and right feeling not to strive earnestly 
for your own improvement. Your natural abilities are 
excellent, and under the direction of a judicious and able 
friend (and I know you have many such) you might ac- 
quire a decided taste for elegant literature, and, even, 
poetry, which, indeed, is included under thatgeneral term. 

" I was very much disappointed by your not sending 
the hair. You may be sure, my dearest Ellen, that I 
would not grudge double postage to obtain it, but 1 
must offer the same excuse for not sending you any. My 
aunt and sisters desire their love to you. Remember me 
kindly to your mother and sisters, and accept all the 
fondest expressions of genuine attachment from your 
real fi-iend, " Charlotte Bronte. 

" P. S. — Remember the mutual promise we made of 
a regular correspondence with each other. Excuse all 
faults in this wretched scrawl. Give my love to the 
Miss Taylors when you see them. 

" Farewell, my dear, dear, dear Ellen ! " * 

The smile tempted by the prim, elder- 
sisterly advice-giving gives way to a sigh 
* Shorter's Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 77. 

Home Again 87 

as the passionate heart speaks out in the 
last line of the postscript. It was never 
easy for her to unveil the throbbing depths 
even to those she loved most fondly. 

" She needed her best spirits to say what 
was in her heart," writes Mary Taylor 
(" Rose Yorke "). 

Mary's first visit to the wilds of Haworth 
made her acquainted with the aunt of whom 
Charlotte never talked to her schoolfellows, 
while ready to speak of her father and sis- 
ters, and to expatiate upon her brother's 
talents. Miss Taylor's conversations with 
the admirable spinster may have haunted 
Charlotte while she wrote of " Rose 
Yorke's " vehement protest against her 
mother's domestic training: 

" If my Master has given me ten talents, my duty is 
to trade with them and make them ten talents more. 
Not in the dust of household drawers shall the coin be 
interred. I will not deposit it in a broken-spouted tea- 
pot and shut it up in a china-closet among tea-things. 
I will not commit it to your work-table to be smothered 
in piles of oollen whose. 1 will not prison it in the 
linen-press to find shrouds among the sheets. Least of 
all, will I hide it in a tureen of cold potatoes, to be 
ranged with bread, butter, pastry, and ham, on the 
shelves of the larder. 

" Mother ! the Lord Who gave each of us our talents 

88 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

will come home some day, and will demand from all an 
account. Suffer your daughters, at least, to put their 
money to the exchangers, that they may be enabled at 
the Master's coming, to pay Him His own with usury.'' 

" She made her nieces sew with purpose, and without," 
writes .Miss Taylor, " and, as far as possible, discouraged 
any other culture. She used to keep the girls sewing 
on charity clothing, and maintained to me that it was 
not for the good of the recipients, but of the sewers. 
' It was proper for them to do it,' she said." 

There is meaning, and much of it, in the 
words, " she maintained to me." The in- 
dependent girl of advanced ideas must have 
had more than one passage-at-arms with a 
spinster of the old school, resolute in the 
refusal to see any good in " views and in- 
novations." Ellen Nussey ingratiated her- 
self with the unbending mentor of fancies 
and follies at her first visit to Haworth. 
Charlotte's letter to her dearest friend, 
written just after the latter had returned 
home, has a joyous bound of spirits un- 
usual in her speech or correspondence. 
Mary's experience with her aunt may have 
made her nervous as to the effect Ellen 
might produce. 

" Papa and aunt are continually adducing you as an 
example for me to shape my actions and behaviour by," 
she says, gaily. "Emily and Anne say 'they never 




Brother and Sisters 89 

saw anyone they liked so well as you.' And Tabby, 
whom you have fascinated, talks a great deal more non- 
sense about your ladyship than I care to repeat." 

Uneventful though they were, a grey 
dead level of prosaic living that would have 
been intolerable to one used to town or 
g^y country society, 1 think those three 
years — when Charlotte Bronte taught her 
sisters, sewed dutifully under her aunt's 
direction, and found, according to her own 
statement, "the two great pleasures and 
relaxations of her day " in drawing and 
walks up the heathery slopes of the moors 
— were the serenest period of her life. 

" IVly home is humble and unattractive to strangers, 
but to me it contains wliat I shall find nowhere else in 
tlie world, — the profound, the intense affection which 
brothers and sisters feel for each other when their minds 
are cast in the same mould, their ideas drawn from the 
same source ; when they have clung to each other from 
childhood, and when disputes have never sprung up to 
divide them." 

Thus she wrote out of the fulness of an 
aching heart when the happy home party 
was broken up by events that projected a 
shadow over the year 1834-5. 

1 use the word "shadow " mindfully, for 
at this turning of her life, the figure of her 

90 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

brother is brought, for the first time, boldly 
into the foreground. He was next to her 
in age, being now nearly eighteen, but a 
year younger than Charlotte and a year 
older than Emily. Had the whole family 
entered into a league and covenant to spoil 
the only boy, the evil work could not have 
been more thoroughly done. Charlotte's 
letters show that she had her full share, 
perhaps more than any of the others, in 
puffing him up with conceit of his talents, 
and, as an inevitable sequitiir with a weak, 
vain, passionate, provincial lad, inoculat- 
ing him with a despicable contempt for 
the women of the household, and tolerant 
patronage of his father. Mr. Bronte taught 
his son Latin, Greek, and mathematics in 
the same antiquated manner in which the 
daughters were instructed. Other educa- 
tion he had none beyond what he got at 
the Haworth Grammar School, and picked 
up in the Parsonage study and at the in- 
different circulating library in the neighbour- 
hood. Like his sisters, he wrote poems, 
tales, tragedies, and essays, took lessons in 
drawing, and practised what of the art he 
had acquired. One and all, they thought 
him handsome. Charlotte speaks of his 

Brother and Sisters 91 

" noble face and forehead," and says that 
"Nature favoured him with a fairer out- 
side, as well as a fairer constitution, than 
his sisters." Not one of his adoring kins- 
people doubted his genius. It is enigmati- 
cal to the critic of the vapid verse, the turgid 
tragedies, the trite prose, treasured by him- 
self, and after his death by his sisters, how 
even love could have been so pitiably 

"The clever one of the family," is the 
verdict of townspeople, dazzled by the tin- 
sel of what Charlotte's " cleverality " fitly 
denotes. Superficial and flashy in convers- 
ation, he was undeniably heavy with the 
pen. In the persuasion that his talents 
needed but to be known to be appreciated 
by the public at large, he sought sponsor- 
ship from Coleridge and Wordsworth, 
receiving small encouragement from either. 
It would have been strange had any other 
result followed the perusal of such lines as 
" 1 '11 lay me down on this marble stone 
And set the world aside, 
To see upon her ebon throne 
The Moon in glory ride.'' 

Charlotte and Emily were of the " half- 
a-dozen people in the world " who, as 

92 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Branwell informs Wordsworth, ' ' knew that 
he had ever penned a line." Charlotte's 
fond faith in his abilities had sustained no 
jar when the question came up in the family 
council — "What shall we do with our 
Genius ? " 

Other reasons besides his eighteen years 
and bourgeoning talents moved father and 
aunt to the opinion that the youth should 
be set to work, and without delay. The 
Black Bull, a picturesque and ancient hos- 
telry, stands just below the church steps, 
and within one minute's sharp run from 
the gate of the Parsonage. For two hun- 
dred and fifty years the tap-room has been 
the resort of the social and the thirsty 
among the Haworth folk, and for the same 
time the succession of landlordship has been 
from father to son in one line. Worthy, 
respectable men, all of them, who kept as 
decent and well-ordered a house as any in 
Yorkshire, or in England. There was con- 
viviality, but not dissipation, in the gather- 
ing, on Saturday nights and other leisure 
evenings, of honest cottagers and mill- 
hands about the long oaken table em- 
browned by a century's usage, and 
indented by the heels of innumerable pew- 

Brother and Sisters 93 

ter flagons. The home-brew of the Black 
Bull deserves a reputation that has become 
international in the last fifty years. The 
most constant habitue of the venerable inn 
was seldom the worse for what he had im- 
bibed, however long the sitting. Mine 
host saw to it that the house was cleared 
at a reasonable hour, and never allowed 
brawling, however large and promiscuous 
the company. 

The company was never so well pleased 
as when Branwell Bronte — "Patrick" to 
his hail-fellow-well-met townsmen — ^sat in 
the triangular chair in the warmest corner 
of the inn parlour, and told stories and 
cracked jokes for the delectation of the 
wondering revellers. To the simple souls 
he was a miracle of learning and wit. They 
extolled him at home, in the mill, in the 
market-place, as the prodigy of the region. 
When strangers from Bradford, Leeds, or 
London passed a night at the Black Bull, 
a messenger was despatched to the Parson- 
age for the "young maister," who, nothing 
loath, as may be imagined, took upon his 
facile self the entertainment of the traveller, 
and exerted himself to live up to his re- 

94 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

A stock story in the Black Bull ripntoire 
is how one evening Charlotte's voice was 
heard at the front door asking if her brother 
were there ; whereupon the boy ran into 
the adjoining kitchen and jumped out of a 
window into the yard. Some one went for- 
ward to meet the young lady, sobering his 
face to reply that "Patrick" was not in 
the house. When telegraphed that the 
coast was clear, Branwell climbed in at 
the window and made his bow laughingly 
to the applauding crowd. They thought it 
no harm to hoodwink the anxious sister. 
The boy was doing no wrong, and "it 
wor main dull at th' Parsonage for a loively 

It was dull for him, or for any young 
person who craved society or other amuse- 
ment than books. The girls wrote or 
studied all the evening in the parlour. On 
the other side of the hall, Mr. Bronte was 
busy in his way, and must not be inter- 
rupted. Miss Branwell retired early ; even 
the kitchen was deserted and dark. In the 
profound stillness the ticking of the clock 
on the stairs could be heard all over the 
house. Nobody called, and nothing ever 
happened. A pot-house audience was 

Brother and Sisters Qs 

preferable to none; the adulation of the 
illiterate tickled a palate not naturally over- 
delicate. Such ignoble adventures as steal- 
ing out of the side door, racing down the 
short lane, and leaping into the midst of 
the ale-bibbers and smokers with some racy 
epigram or saucy salutation, when father 
and sisters thought him asleep in his room 
above-stairs, quickened young blood and 
hurt nobody. 

Mr. Bronte was of yeoman stock, and at 
no time held himself offensively aloof from 
his parishioners. Nevertheless, he was not 
insensible to the danger that his weaker son 
ran in his present associations, and lent a 
willing ear to the proposal brought forward 
by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, that the pro- 
mising brother should goto London, be en- 
rolled as a pupil in the Royal Academy of 
Art, and forthwith set about the accomplish- 
ment of the foregone conclusion of be- 
coming famous. We catch contagious 
enthusiasm from Charlotte's announcement 
of the great scheme to Ellen Nussey : 

" We are all about to divide, break up, separate. Emily 
is going to school, Branwell is going to London, and I am 
goingto be a governess ! This last determination I formed 
myself, knowing that I should have to take the step 

96 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

sometime, and ' better sune as syne,' to use tlie Scotch 
proverb; and knowing well that Papa would have enough 
to do with his limited income, should Branwell be 
placed at the Royal Academy, and Emily at Roe Head. 

" Where am I going to reside ? you will ask. Within 
four miles of you, at a place neither of us is unacquainted 
with, being no other than the identical Roe Head men- 
tioned above. Yes ! I am going to teach in the very 
school where 1 was myself taught. Miss Wooler made 
me the offer, and I preferred it to one or two proposals 
of private governess-ship which I had before received. 
I am sad — very sad — at the thought of leaving home ; 
but duty — necessity — these are stern mistresses, who will 
not be disobeyed. 

' ' Did 1 not once say you ought to be thankful for 
your independence ? I felt what 1 said at the time, and 
I repeat it now with double earnestness. If anything 
would cheer me, it is the idea of being so near you. 
Surely, you and Polly will come and see me ; it would 
be wrong in me to doubt it ; you were never unkind 
yet. Emily and 1 leave home on the 27th of this month 
[July]. The idea of being together consoles us both 
somewhat, and, truth, since I must enter a situation, 
' My lines have fallen in pleasant places.' i both love 
and respect Miss Wooler." 



UP to the date of Charlotte Bronte's gov- 
erness-ship at Roe Head, her sister 
Emily is as little conspicuous in the house- 
hold group as Anne — " gentle and loving," 
to borrow Sarah De Garrs's words, "ac- 
knowledging her sisters as her superiors 
in all things." 

With this, her second absence from home, 
certain peculiarities of Emily's become 
evident and pronounced. Mary Taylor had 
seen in her a slim, long-limbed girl, taller 
than her sisters, and so reserved as to ap- 
pear repellent. Mrs. Gaskell draws a just 
distinction between her reserve and Anne's 

"Shyness would please, if it knew how. 
Reserve is indifferent whether it pleases or 

7 97 

98 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

It is well known that Emily was Char- 
lotte's best-beloved sister. Shirley was 
the writer's ideal of "what Emily Bronte 
would have been, had she been placed in 
health and prosperity." 

No visitor who is now admitted to Ha- 
worth Rectory fails to pause to look at the 
narrow well at the foot of the crooked stair- 
case leading from first to second storey. 
Keeper — the bulldog Tartar of Shirley — 
was Emily's guard abroad and familiar at 

"A blow is what he is not used to, and 
will not take ! " exclaims Shirley, as the 
Irish curate raises his cane against the 
"black-muzzled, tawny dog." 

The gift of Keeper to Emily was coupled 
with a like warning. 

"He is peaceable enough unless he is 
struck. Then he is dangerous," said the 
former owner. Emily was on such good 
terms with all her dumb pets — cats, chick- 
ens, and dogs — that the big, faithful fel- 
low was long with her before the trial-day 
for both came. His one bad habit was to 
jump upon the most comfortable bed he 
could find, for his daily siesta, a trick of 
which neither scolding nor argument could 

Emily Bronte 99 

break him. When discovered at last by 
Tabby in the middle of the bed in the 
guest-chamber, Emily engaged to punish 
him as he deserved. Without a word, 
she marched straight to the room, seized 
the culprit by the loose skin on the back 
of his neck, and dragged him down the 
steps, he growling all the way and pulling 
back with all his might. At the foot of the 
staircase she pushed him hard into the nar- 
row nook behind the newel-post, and beat 
him on the head and jaws with her clenched 
fist until he cowered, conquered, at her 

Charlotte told the rest of the story, alter- 
ing scene and names: 

' ' She had not a word for anybody else during the 
rest of the day ; but sat near the hall-fire till evening, 
watching and tending Tartar, who lay all gory, stiff, 
and swelled, on a mat at her feet. She wept furtively 
over him sometimes, and murmured the softest words of 
pity and endearment, in tones whose music the old, 
scarred, canine warrior acknowledged by licking her 
hand, or her sandal, alternately with his own red 

Emily's love of dogs had nearly proved 
fatal to her at one time, and this accident, 
also, Charlotte incorporated in Shirley. 

100 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Standing at the kitchen door, opening 
upon the lane, Emily saw a tramp cur trot- 
ting toward her, panting hoarsely, his 
tongue lolling low and long from his jaws. 
Supposing that he was suffering from the 
heat of the day, she ran back into the 
kitchen for a pail of water, and carried it 
out to him. In setting it down, she offered 
to pat his head, speaking soothingly to 
him. Instead of drinking, the brute snapped 
at her bare arm, drawing the blood with 
his teeth, then ran madly down the street. 

Emily had left the ironing-board to look 
out of the door. Without calling for help, 
she went back into the kitchen, and snatched 
the hottest iron from the fire, a slender rod 
used in crimping. The tip was a clear 
scarlet ; she bored it well into the little 
wounds, drew down her sleeve over the 
scarified spot, and did not speak of it, even 
to Charlotte, until nine days had passed, 
and she thought the danger over. 

Charlotte was reticent unless when moved 
to expression by deep feeling. Emily was 
always taciturn. Her sisters understood 
her in her dumbest moods. She did not care 
who else misapprehended her. It is mar- 
vellous how little is known of her personal 

Emily Bronte loi 

traits and habits, witli all the keen research 
instigated by admiration of the rare genius 
displayed in her one published book, 
IVuthering Heights. If she wrote letters 
they were not preserved by the recipients; 
she had no intimates except her sisters 
and, until his fall, her brother. A friend, 
who had seen as much of her as anyone 
not of her name and blood, told Mrs. Gas- 
kell that " she never showed regard to any 
human creature. All her love was reserved 
for animals." 

At Cowan Bridge she was the youngest 
pupil, and petted by the school. 1 fancy 
that this was her only experience of such 
fondling and indulgence as would right- 
fully fall to the lot of a pretty five-year-oId 
girl in such circumstances. 

Sarah De Garrs says of her at that age : 
"She was the only one of the children who 
ever required a hint as to forgotten boot- 
laces, or a soiled pinafore, and then only 
when there was an interesting book in the 
way." Of her as a woman, the same at- 
tached friend asks, "How can I describe 
the master-spirit of the talented trio } Will 
her character ever be fully apprehended ? " 

Her humble neighbours knew her by 

102 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

sight, of course, but those who survive 
have less to tell than of the others. " She 
kept herself much to herself, and had little 
to say to anybody," — sums up their re- 
miniscences. One told me that "some 
thought her the prettiest of the girls." For 
his part, he "did not call her handsome, 
but she was, so to speak, ' high-looking.' " 
In a company exceeding in number Char- 
lotte's two or three friends, whose repeated 
visits accustomed the inmates of the house 
to their presence, Emily was awkward and 
constrained, making no effort to put others, 
or herself, at ease. On the moors — her 
head up and nostrils dilated, like a deer- 
hound that scents the game, her dogs at 
her heels — her step was free and swift, her 
carriage graceful. Thus Charlotte saw her 
in the mirror of her mind when she begins 
a letter to her, " Mine own bonnie love." 

With all her love of nature and outdoor 
life, she was, par excellence, the niece 
whose housewifely skill did most honour 
to Miss Branwell's training. She did all the 
ironing, and most of the baking, besides 
bearing an important part in such scenes as 
Charlotte reviews in another letter to her 
favourite sister : 

Emily Bronte 103 

" I should like uncommonly to be in the dining-room 
at home, or in the kitchen, or in the back kitchen. I 
should like even to be cutting up the hash, and you 
standing by, watching that I put enough flour, not too 
much pepper, and, above all, that 1 save the best pieces 
of the leg of mutton for Tiger and Keeper, the first of 
vv'hich personages would be jumping about the dish and 
carving-knife, and the latter standing like a devouring 
flame on the kitchen floor. To complete the picture. 
Tabby blowing the fire in order to boil the potatoes to a 
sort of vegetable glue. How divine are these recollec- 
tions to me at this moment ! " 

"Emily is going to school !" — Charlotte 
had said it jubilantly, and spoken hopefully 
of the comfort they would be to one an- 
other at Roe Head. At the close of the 
first quarter, the elder sister wrote urgently 
to her father to lay his commands upon 
Emily to return to Haworth. The eagle 
pined in the poultry-yard. From the first 
day of text-books, classes, and schoolroom 
hours, the girl was appetiteless and hag- 
gard ; homesickness in its worst form 
seized upon her. Ashamed of the weak- 
ness, she threw herself furiously upon her 
studies, — wrought at the novel tasks as for 
her life. Charlotte tells with what result : 

" In this struggle her health was quickly 
broken. Her white face, attenuated form, 

104 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and failing strength threatened rapid decline. 
Her nature proved too strong for her 

Back at home, with the great, unbroken 
hollow of the sky above her, the wind from 
twenty miles of treeless moorland in her 
face, she rallied quickly, and tried to atone 
for the failure to secure such an education 
as other young women of her station re- 
ceived. The line of study prescribed at 
school was pursued indefatigably. She 
conned her German grammar while she 
kneaded the dough for the semi-weekly 
baking, the book propped up before her, 
out of reach of flour-dust or spatter of 
yeast. Whatever her employment, a book 
was ever within reach. How well she 
succeeded in equipping the ardent intellect 
discriminating critics never weary of telling. 

Branwell was again in Haworth almost 
as soon as Emily. For some mysterious 
reason he did not enter the Royal Academy. 
Either the specimens of his work exhibited 
to the committee of inspection were un- 
satisfactory, or, as is generally suspected, he 
squandered the stipend allowed him by his 
father, and Mr. Bronte cut off further sup- 
plies. He would probably have thrown 

Charlotte's Governess-ship 105 

himself away had he stayed in London 
and been set to work at the art he loved, 
or believed that he loved. Moral and physi- 
cal ruin was made certain by the life he led 
as gentleman-at-large in Haworth, painting 
when he felt like it, carousing at the Black 
Bull, writing rhymes by the ream, and gun- 
ning on the moors with the sons of small 
squires and mill-owners. 

But for the solicitude on his account that 
could not but steal over her spirits as news 
of his idleness reached her, Charlotte would 
have been as peacefully contented at Roe 
Head as she could be anywhere away from 
Haworth. Ellen Nussey's home, " Brook- 
royd," was within walking distance, as was 
the Taylors', and Miss Woolers thoughtful 
kindness made frequent intercourse a pleas- 
ant possibility. We hear of Sundays spent 
with both families ; of parcels tossed over 
the wall on Huddersfield Market-day as 
one of the Nussey or Taylor brothers 
"whirled past" the enclosed playground 
in sight of Charlotte's window. Her duties 
were not onerous ; her pupils liked her and 
studied satisfactorily ; she had the affection- 
ate confidence of her employer, and her 
moderate salary clothed herself and Anne. 

io6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Ellen Nussey paid a visit to the Parsonage 
during the midsummer holidays ; there 
were long summer afternoons among the 
heathery hills, then in their beautiful gar- 
ments of royal purple, and merry evenings 
in the home parlour, and, thanks to the 
gentle magic of the guest's tact, many 
really natural girlish confidences ; — and the 
weeks of relaxation were flown. Ellen 
went home, Charlotte to begin the term of 
1836-37 with' Miss Woolen 

Branwell had set up a studio, without 
waiting for further instruction, and was 
painting portraits, sometimes going to Brad- 
ford to wait upon sitters. If those in the 
Bronte Museum at Haworth are fair speci- 
mens of his work, it is astonishing that he 
ever obtained a second order after the first 
picture was completed. They are sixteenth- 
rate as to execution, tasteless as to concep- 
tion and style. 

An important change in its consequences 
to Charlotte was made by Miss Wooler in 
1836. She removed her school to Dews- 
bury Moor, a handsome building three miles 
from cozy Roe Head, and upon much lower 
ground. Miasma, or some kindred evil, 
told almost immediately upon Charlotte's 

Charlotte's Governess-ship 107 

health and spirits. She had darkly morbid 
fancies, confided partially to Ellen, whose 
"mild, steady friendship consoled her, 
however bitterly she sometimes felt toward 
other people." Emily had made another 
desperate effort to conquer nature in taking 
a place as pupil-teacher in a Halifax school, 
and the " appalling account " Charlotte re- 
ceived of her duties there added to the 
elder sister's depression. 

" Hard labour from six in the morning to 
eleven at night, with only one half-hour of 
exercise between. This is slavery ! 1 fear 
she can never stand it." 

A long breathing-spell blessed them at 
Christmas ; a holiday made memorable, , 
we are told by Mrs. Gaskell, by an ex- 
change of confidences on the part of the 
sisters with respect to plans they had 
formed and fostered of publishing some of 
the many things they had written. At 
this date we have also the first mention of 
a custom kept up by the sisters as long as 
life lasted for each of them. Their aunt 
went to her room at nine o'clock, leaving 
the girls at liberty to spend the rest of the 
evening as they pleased. Even then the 
methodical habits drilled into them from 

io8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

their birth prevailed above inclination. 
They studied, or wrote, or sewed until the 
hall-clock struck ten, before work was put 
aside. If the fire in the pinched grate, but 
half the size of that which now fills its 
place, were low, they left a candle burning 
upon the table. If there were firelight 
enough to show the dim outlines of furni- 
ture and figures, they put out the candles 
"for economy's sake," and locking arms, 
paced around the room, up and down, 
backward and forward, while pouring out 
their hearts to one another. 1 think the 
half-light would have been preferred to 
illumination had frugality been less expe- 
dient. Reserve was strong second nature 
by now, and confidences were impractic- 
able, even with those they loved best, when 
eyes searched the speaker's face, and 
changing expression was the thermometer 
of emotion. 

People who met Charlotte as a celebrity 
speak of her way of turning away from her 
interlocutor as she talked, gradually shift- 
ing her position until she sat sideways in 
her chair, a mannerism due to early seclu- 
sion and attendant bashfulness. 

The friendly glooms of the quiet parlour 

Charlotte's Governess-ship 109 

favoured free discussion of past failures, 
present perplexities, and the possibilities of 
the future. Charlotte and Emily were gov- 
ernesses because there was no other way 
open by which they could earn a living ; 
Anne was to go back with Charlotte to 
Miss Wooler's as a pupil, to prepare for 
the same profession — hateful to all three, 
to Emily insupportable. They detested 
teaching ; they loved to write. With each 
the pen was a fuller outlet of feeling and 
thought than the tongue ; the Open Sesame 
to the wide, beautiful world of " things not 
seen " they had made for themselves as a 
retreat from, and a solace for, the narrow 
sordidness of visible and temporal things. 
At the suggestion that they might live by, 
as well as in, the exercise of the gifts they 
acknowledged to themselves and to each 
other, their souls took fire. In the audac- 
ity of their excitement they resolved to 
take the first great step in the road they, in 
their unworldliness, conceived would lead 
to success. Charlotte was commissioned 
to ask counsel of the Poet Laureate, Robert 
Southey. He had climbed the heights and 
could tell them whether or not they might 
adventure hill and pass. They knew him 

1 10 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

by reputation to be gentle of heart and 
kindly of disposition. He would conde- 
scend to tyros of low estate. 

The momentous letter, so carefully pre- 
pared as to seem stilted to the verge of 
bombast, was despatched on the twenty- 
ninth of December, 1836. 

Emily had been slaving beyond her 
strength in the Halifax school ; Charlotte 
bearing with what patience will and religion 
gave her the sickness of hope deferred, 
while teaching the youngest girls at Miss 
Wooler's ; Anne's timid sweetness had 
made friends of teachers and scholars — 
when, early in March, Mr. Southey's answer 
was forwarded from Haworth to Dews- 
bury Moor. 

It was kind, it was sensible,- — from the 
standpoint of a disinterested critic who 
knew nothing of his correspondent beyond 
what her letter told him, — and it was frank. 
Absence from home had delayed his letter. 
Nor was it "an easy task to answer it, nor 
a pleasant one to cast a damp over the high 
spirits and the generous desires of youth." 

(Poor Charlotte ! did the wording of the 
merciful preamble smite her as a bitter 
irony ?) 

Charlotte's Governess-ship 1 1 1 

The Laureate prosed on platitudinally, 
with faint praise of the verses she had en- 
closed, with warnings as to the peril of 
day-dreams and romantic expectations, 
until he reached the pith of the commun- 

" Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, 
and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her 
proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as 
an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties 
you have not yet been called, and when you are, you 
will be less eager for celebrity. You will not seek in 
imagination for excitement, of which the vicissitudes of 
this life, and the anxieties from which you must not 
hope to be exempted, be your state what it may, will 
bring with them but too much. 

" Write poetry for its own sake — not in a spirit of 
emulation, and not with a view to celebrity. The less 
you aim at that, the more likely you will be to deserve, 
and finally to attain it. So written it is wholesome, 
both for the heart and soul. It may be made the surest 
means, next to Religion, of soothing the mind and 
elevating it. You may embody in it your best thoughts 
and your wisest feelings, and, in so doing, discipline and 
strengthen them." 

When the logic of events — often ruthless, 
sometimes, thank Heaven! gracious and 
compensatory — had proved the worthless- 
nessofthe great one's advice, Charlotte said 

1 12 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

of his letter: "It was kind and admirable. A 
little stringent, but it did me good." 

I wish a just sense of the proportions to 
be observed in this biography warranted 
the insertion of every line of her reply to 
the death-knell of her fondest hopes and 
happiest aspirations. I cannot deny my 
reader the perusal, and myself a repetition, 
of a part of it : 

" At the first perusal of your letter, I felt only shame 
and regret that I had ever ventured to trouble you with 
my crude rhapsody. I felt a painful heat rise to my face 
when I thought of the quires of paper 1 had covered with 
what once gave me so much delight, but which now was 
only a source of confusion. But after 1 had thought a 
little, and read it again and again, the prospect seemed 
to clear. You do not forbid me to write ; you do not say 
that what 1 write is utterly destitute of merit. You only 
warn me against the folly of neglecting real duties for the 
sake of imaginative pleasures. You kindly allow me to 
write poetry for its own sake, provided I leave undone 
nothing which I ought to do, in order to pursue that sin- 
gle, absorbing, exquisite giatification. 

' ' 1 trust I shall never more feel ambitious to see my 
name in print. If the wish should rise, 1 '11 look at 
Southey's letter and suppress it. It is honour enough for 
me that I have written to him, and received an answer. 
That letter is consecrated. No one shall ever see it, but 
Papa and my brother and sisters. Again, 1 thank you ! 
This incident, 1 suppose, will be renewed no more. If 

Charlotte's Governess-ship 1 1 3 

I live to be an old woman, I shall remember it, thirty 
years hence, as a bright dream." 

In this remarkable epistle — the English of 
which is stronger than Southey could have 
written, while the spirit has the grave sim- 
plicity of a child — the woman and daughter 
put herself upon record. 

Southey was so much touched by it that 
he wrote again, inviting her to visit him 
should she ever find herself in his neigh- 
bourhood, and counselling her to avoid 
over-excitement, and to keep a quiet mind. 
"Your moral and spiritual improvement 
will then keep pace with the culture of 
your intellectual powers." 

Humane and patronising moralist! Let 
us be glad, for his sake, that he never sus- 
pected what flinty particles were kneaded 
up in the comely loaf he bestowed upon a 
half-starved soul. 



EMILY remained in Halifax half a year, 
a period of exquisite suffering borne 
dumbly and without a struggle. Finally 
her health succumbed to the strain, and 
the fiat went forth. She must go back to 
Haworth if she would not be permanently 
invalided. There was work in abundance 
for her there. Tabby had had a serious 
accident that lamed her for life, and Miss 
Branwell was growing old. Branwell was 
painting, idling, and drinking. Anne was 
still at school, and Charlotte was the only 
breadwinner besides her father. In spite 
of the (to her) unsalubrious air of Dews- 
bury Moor, she stood valiantly at her post 
for two years, keeping her word to Mr. 
Southey and seeking, in conscientious per- 
formance of "her proper duties," to dull 

Dewsbury Moor 1 1=5 

the ceaseless longing to be something more 
than an automaton, to do something higher 
than mix and administer mental pap for 

In mid-May of 1838, the month when 
bird-songs were sweetest and the spring- 
ing heather at its tenderest green on the 
dear moors, Miss Wooler insisted upon 
calling in medical advice for her young as- 
sistant. The girl's nerves — not her nerve 
— ^were giving out. She was semi-hyster- 
ical after the day's work was done; she 
was a prey to insomnia; she could not eat. 
The physician spoke plainly to Miss Wooler. 
Miss Bronte's life and reason were in dan- 
ger. She was fairly worn out. In modern 
technical phrase, she was on the verge of 
nervous prostration. But one thing could 
save her. She must have rest and change, 
and these in the breezy uplands for which 
she pined. 

In June she wrote to Ellen Nussey of 
dawning convalescence: 

" A calm and even mind like yours cannot conceive 
the feelings of the shattered wretch who is now writing 
to you when, after weeks of mental and bodily anguish 
not to be described, something like peace began to dawn 
again. My health and spirits had utterly failed me, and 

1 1 6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the medical man whom I consulted, enjoined me, as I 
valued my life, to go home." 

At Mr. Bronte's earnest invitation, the 
two Taylor sisters paid a visit to their 
friend the first week in June. Mary was 
not well, but Martha "kept up a continual 
flow of good humour during her stay, and 
has, consequently, been very fascinating." 

The brightest picture we have of Ha- 
worth home life is given in this letter 
written in the family sitting-room. Mary 
Taylor is, Charlotte says, at the piano ; 
Martha, vivacious, piquante, and restless, 
is talking animatedly to Branwell, as he 
stands before her, looking laughingly down 
into her face. We have no other view of 
the weak and facile son of the house half 
so pleasing as this. 

It must have been during this tranquil 
year spent by all three sisters at home, ex- 
cept for Charlotte's occasional visits to the 
Nusseys and Taylors, that the picture was 
painted of which I secured a rough photo- 
graph in Haworth. I was there assured 
that the original was painted by Branwell 
Bronte, although no mention is made of it 
by that most careful of the Bronte chron- 
iclers, Professor Clement Shorter. The 

Family Scenes 1 17 

workmanship is atrocious, but people who 
knew the family say the likenesses are so far 
worthy of the name that they can be iden- 
tified. Charlotte sits at her brother's 
right hand, Emily next to her, and Anne 
alone at the other end of the table. Bran- 
well's sporting propensities are characteris- 
tically indicated by the fowling-piece and 
game. His social ambitions lay in the direc- 
tion of the country gentleman, and these 
tastes were not lessened by the poor emin- 
ence accorded him by the illiterate con- 
stituency of the tap-room. 

A worthy Thornton shoemaker, formerly 
a resident of Haworth, and who made 
shoes for the Brontes as long as he lived 
there, told me an anecdote illustrative of 
the flashiness the weak young fellow mis- 
took for dash : 

" He would be about eighteen when 1 made him the 
boots I mind of. Most folk, at that day, had boots 
made to coom up to the knee — some above the knee. 
Top-boots, you know. Patiick Bronte would have his 
lower to wear with gaiters for hunting on the moors, 
and the like. 1 made the pair, and when he put thim 
on, they wor a bit toight in the instep and aboot th' 
ankle. And, with that, before I could say a word to 
tell him I 'd stretch thim, he whipped oot his jack-knife 
and cut thim open. Ah ! he wor a rare one ! " 

1 1 8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Plain common-sense reminds us that a 
lad who was not earning enough to pay 
his board, and whose father was growing 
old and had three daughters to be provided 
for, was inhuman, as well as extravagant, 
in slashing into what his father must pay 
for. The reckless bit of folly fastened the 
incident in the shoemaker's mind, and the 
air with which it was done moved him to 
admiration rather than reprobation. 

Branwell and Emily were left at home 
when gentle Anne took a place as govern- 
ess in April, 1839, and Charlotte entered the 
family of Mr. Sidgwick, a wealthy country 
gentleman at Stonegappe, Yorkshire. 

Anne's experience is condensed into one 
sentence in a confidential letter from Char- 
lotte to Ellen Nussey: " You could never 
live in an unruly, violent family of children 
such as those at Ingham Hall." 

Her own engagement was temporary, to 
fill the place of the regular governess, who 
had leave of absence for three months. 
Charlotte congratulated herself upon this 
circumstance after a short trial of the situa- 
tion. Her employer was a hard, haughty 
parvenue, who "overwhelmed her with 
oceans of needlework, yards of cambric to 

o ? 

As Private Governess 1 19 

hem, muslin night-caps to make, and dolls 
to dress." 

"1 see now, more clearly than I have 
ever done before, that a private governess 
has no existence, is not considered as a 
living, and rational, being except as con- 
nected with the wearisome duties she has 
to fulfil," she breaks out bitterly. A sig^ 
nificant caution follows in the latter part 
of the letter: "Don't show this to Papa 
or Aunt, but only to ^raiiwell. They will 
think 1 am never satisfied wherever 1 am. 
1 complain to you because it is a relief, and 
really 1 have had some unexpected mor- 
tifications to put up with." 

A week later she asks Ellen to 

' ' imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch thrown at once 
into the midst of a large family, proud as peacocks and 
rich as Jews, at a time when they were particularly 
gay, when the house was filled with company — all 
strangers. . 

" At first 1 was for giving up all and going home. But 
after ^ little reflection I said to myself, — ' 1 had never 
quitted a place without gaining a friend ; adversity is a 
good school ; the poor are born to labour and the de- 
pendent to endure.' . 1 recollected the fable of 
the willow and the oak. I bent quietly, and now 1 
trust the storm is blowing over. 1 have no 
wish to be pitied except by yourself." 

120 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

It was the mistress of this family who, 
when one of her children impulsively threw 
his arms about his teacher's neck with, 
"I Ime ou, Miss Bronte!" ejaculated re- 
provingly, " Fie ! love the governess, my 
dear ! " 

"The dreary 'gin-horse' round," as she 
calls governessing, may have been the 
more intolerable for an opportunity offered 
her, just before she accepted the proposal 
to go to the Sidgwicks, of escaping at 
once, and forever, from a life which she 
abhorred and dreaded. 

Henry Nussey, a young clergyman, the 
brother of her dearest friend, asked her to 
marry him. The letter in which the de- 
claration of his regard was made was, as 
she afterward told his sister, "written 
without cant or flattery, and in a common- 
sense style which does credit to his judg- 

With the looming horror of a "situa- 
tion" before her, she answered the hon- 
ourable gentleman she would retain as a 
friend, kindly and candidly: 

" 1 have no personal repugnance to the idea of a 
union with you, but I feel convinced that mine is not 
the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness 

First Offer of Marriage 121 

of a man like you. . You do not know me. 1 

am not the serious, grave, cool-headed individual you 
suppose. You would think me romantic and eccentric. 
You would say I was satirical and severe. However, I 
scorn deceit, and I will never, for the sake of attaining 
the distinction of matrimony and escaping the stigma of 
an old maid, take a worthy man whom 1 am conscious 
I cannot render happy." 

In this sisterly epistle she sketches what 
manner of woman he ought to marry, evi- 
dently with a view to presenting a being 
utterly antipodal to herself : 

"Her character should not be too 
marked, ardent, and original ; her temper 
should be mild, her piety undoubted, her 
spirits even and cheerful, and her personal 
attractions sufficient to please your eyes 
and gratify your just pride." 

The italics are her own, and indicate 
what was ever patent to her friends — an 
exaggerated sense of her homely face and 
ill-assured manner. 

To Ellen, to whom her brother had con- 
fided his attachment and intended proposal, 
Charlotte wrote yet more plainly : 

" There were in this proposal some things which 
might have proved a strong temptation. I thought if 1 
were to marry Henry Nussey his sister could live with 
me, and how happy 1 should be. But again I asked 

122 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

myself two questions : Do I love him as much as a 
woman ought to love the man she marries ? Am I the 
woman best qualified to make him happy ? Alas ! Ellen, 
my conscience answered no to both those questions. I 
felt that, though I esteemed, though 1 had a kindly 
leaning toward him because he is an amiable and well- 
disposed man, yet I had not, and could not have, that 
intense attachment which would make me willing to die 
for him ; and, if ever I marry, it must be in that light of 
adoration that I will regard my husband. 

" Ten to one I shall never have the chance again — but 
n'importe ! 

" Moreover, I was aware that Henry knew so little 
of me he could hardly be conscious to whom he was 
writing. Why, it would startle him to see me in my 
natural home-character. He would think 1 was a wild, 
romantic enthusiast indeed. 1 could not sit, all day long, 
making a grave face before my husband. 1 would 
laugh and satirise, and say whatever came into my head 
first. And, if he were a clever man and loved me, the 
whole world weighed in the balance against his smallest 
wish should be light as air. Could 1, knowing my mind 
to be such as that, conscientiously say that I would take 
a grave, quiet young man like Henry ? No ! it would 
have been deceiving him, and deception of that sort is 
beneath me." * 

Before leaving the subject of this, her first 
offer of marriage, it is well to state that in six 
months she was called upon to write a letter 
to Mr. Nussey, congratulatory upon his 
engagement to another woman, and that 
* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 297. 

Offers of Marriage 123 

he always remained her steadfast friend. 
She was a welcome guest at his house, and 
both parties to the quiet transaction in 
hearts seem to have been one in the desire 
to feel and act as if it had never ruffled the 
current of their intercourse. 

In a very different strain she describes to 
Ellen a visit from a young Irish curate — 

" witty, lively, ardent, clever, too, but deficient in 
the dignity and discretion of an Englishman. At home, 
you know, 1 talk with ease, and am never shy — 
never weighed down and oppressed by the miserable 
inauvaise haute which torments and constrains me else- 
where. So 1 conversed with this Irishman and laughed 
at his jests." 

In effect she made herself so agreeable 
that she received by post a few days after 
his one and only visit 

" a declaration of attachment and proposal of matri- 
mony, expressed in the ardent language of the sapient 
young Irishman. 

" I hope you are laughing heartily ? This is not like 
one of my adventures, is it ? It more nearly resembles 
Martha's ["Jessie Yorke"]. 1 am certainly doomed to 
be an old maid. Never mind ! I made up my mind to 
that fate ever since I was twelve years old. " 

A letter bearing date of May 15, 1840, 
almost a year after she had dismissed her 
two suitors, fits in well here : 

124 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" Do not be over-persuaded to marry a man you can 
never respect — I do not say love, because 1 think if you 
can respect a person before marriage, moderate love, at 
least, will come after ; and as to intense passion, 1 am 
convinced that that is no desirable feeling. In the first 
place it seldom, or never meets with a requital, and in 
the second place, if it did, the feeling would be only 
temporary. It would last the honeymoon, and then, 
perhaps give place to disgust, or indifference — worse, 
perhaps, than disgust. Certainly this would be the case 
on the man's part ; — and, on the woman's — God help 
her, if she is left to love passionately and alone ! 

" 1 am tolerably well convinced that 1 shall never 
marry at all. Reason tells me so, and I am not so utterly 
the slave of feeling but that 1 can occasionally hear her 

The year had passed quietly, but neither 
idly nor unhappily. Tabby's confirmed 
lameness obliged her to leave her situation 
and go to stay for a while with her sister. 
Charlotte and Emily did all the housework 
with no servant except a little errand-girl 
from the school in the lane near the Parson- 
age. To Charlotte fell the chamber- work, — 
" blackleading the stoves, making the beds, 
and sweeping the floors, " — with the ironing. 
The first time she undertook the latter task 
she burned the clothes ; afterward she be- 
came an adept. Emily was cook and 

New Plans isi^ 

" I am much happier than I should be living like a 
fine lady anywhere else," Charlotte affirmed, " Yet — 1 
intend to force myself to take another situation when 1 
can get one, though 1 hate and abhor the very thoughts 
of governess-ship. But I must do it, and therefore 1 
heartily wish I could hear of a family where they need 
such a commodity as a governess." 

The faultless system of housewifery 
learned from the aunt, and the simple 
habits of a family that had no visitors, left 
the sisters several hours of each day for 
writing and out-of-door exercise. In the 
winter of 1839-40 they conceived and dis- 
cussed a scheme which, although it never 
took the shape they wished it to assume, 
was to exert a powerful influence upon 
their fortunes. 

Anne was to be recalled, and the three 
sisters would open a home-school for girls 
in some ehgible town not far from Ha- 
worth. The project formed the staple of 
the dialogues held in the parlour when the 
seniors were in bed, and the candles were 
extinguished to save expense, and the only 
sound in the old house besides the moan- 
ing wind and the ticking of the hall-clock 
was the soft, measured tread over the floor 
of the two whose restless shadows crossed 
the fire-lighted space about the pinched 

126 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

grate to blend with moveless shadows in 
the corners of the room. The cherished 
project promised so little that Charlotte 
was, all the while, on the lookout for 
another situation. 

She wrote of a dim prospect of an en- 
gagement for herself, and of a certain open- 
ing for Branwell, late in the summer of 

" A woman of the name of B , it seems, wants a 

teacher. I wish she would have me, and I have written 
to Miss Wooler to tell her so. Verily, it is a delightful 
thing to live here at home, with full liberty to do just 
what one pleases. But 1 recollect some scrubby old fable 
about grasshoppers and ants by a scrubby old knave 
yclept /Esop. The grasshoppers sang all the summer, 
and starved all the winter. 

' ' A distant relation of mine — one Patrick Branwell — 
has set off to seek his fortune in the wild, wandering, 
adventurous, romantic, knight-errant-like capacity of 
clerk on the Leeds and Manchester Railroad. Leeds 
and Manchester — where are they ? Cities in the wilder- 
ness, like Tadmor, alias Palmyra — are they not?" 

In the same letter we have a leaf from 
the record of Charlotte's parish-work and 
interesting incidents touching upon her as- 
sociation with her father's curates while 
thus engaged. Mr. Weightman, supposed 
by some to have been the suggestion of 

The Curates 127 

little Mr. Sweeting, in Shirley, has given 
her a pleasant surprise in the discovery of 
his goodness to one of her Sunday-school 
girls. Calling upon the girl, she 

"found her on her way to that ' bourn whence no trav- 
eller returns,' and inquiry into her wants elicited the in- 
formation that Mr. Weightman had provided delicacies 
for the invalid and that he was ' always good-natured to 
poor folks, and seemed to have a deal of feeling and 
kind-heartedness about him.' 

" God bless him ! " breaks out Charlotte, impulsively, 
repentant of sundry jests she and her sisters had passed 
upon the natty little fellow. " 1 wonder who, with his 
advantages, would be without his faults. I know many 
of his faulty actions — many of his weak points ; yet 
where I am, he shall always find rather a defender than 

The admirer of ' ' Shirley " as jaunty "Cap- 
tain Keeldar" will like to know that Emily 
Bronte earned the sobriquet of " Major " in 
the family circle by guarding Ellen Nussey 
from the attentions of "our revered friend, 
William Weightman," — so Charlotte rattles 
on, — "who is quite as bonny, pleasant, 
light-hearted, good-tempered, generous, 
careless, fickle, and unclerical as ever." * 

Mr. Bradley, a curate in another parish, 
* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 287. 

128 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

was thought by other friends of the Brontes 
to be the original of "Mr. Sweeting of 
Nunnely." Mr. Grant, sometime master 
of the Haworth Grammar School and Bran- 
well's teacher, was "Mr. Donne." Of 
"Mr. Malone " we shall hear more, by- 




1AM, as yet, ' wanting a situation,' like 
a housemaid out of place," Charlotte 
had said in April, 1839. She did not ob- 
tain what she desired, yet "abhorred," 
until the spring of 1841. She had but two 
pupils, both under ten years of age. Her 
salary was twenty pounds a year, out of 
which she was to pay all her expenses ex- 
cept board and lodging. The place, Up- 
perwood House, Rawdon, the country-seat 
of a Mr. White, was a decided improve- 
ment upon the temporary engagement with 
the Sidgwicks. It is gratifying to have her 
testimony to the kindness of her employers 
in a letter to Henry Nussey, now resident 
at Earnley Rectory, and a married man: 

9 129 

130 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" We are all separated now, and winning our bread 
amongst strangers as we can. My sister Anne is near 
York, my brother in a situation near Halifax ; I am here. 
Emily is the only one left at home, where her usefulness 
and willingness make her indispensable. . 1 do 

not pretend to say that I am always contented. A gov- 
erness must often submit to have the heartache. My 
employers, Mr. and Mrs. White, are kind, worthy peo- 
ple in their way, but the children are indulged. 1 have 
great difficulties to contend with sometimes. Persever- 
ance will perhaps conquer them. And it has gratified 
me much to find that the parents are well satisfied with 
their children's improvement in learning since I came." * 

The school project worked actively in 
her mind. Her father and aunt were con- 
sulted in the midsummer holidays of 1841, 
and did not throw cold water upon it, 
much to the sisters' surprise and gratifica- 
tion. Miss Bran well went so far as to 
promise to advance a hundred pounds for 
initial expenses should a good situation be 
secured. Burlington was thought of, and 
the claims of sundry other places were dis- 
cussed in family council and by letter. 

" No further steps have been taken about the project 
I mentioned to you," she told Ellen Nussey in August, 
"but Emily and Anne and 1 keep it in view. It is our 
polar star, and we look to it in all circumstances of 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 88. 

Various School Projects 131 

despondency. You will not mention it at 

present. A project not actually commenced is always 

In this letter she speaks of Mary Taylor's 
having gone to Brussels with her brother, 
and of her descriptions of 

" pictures the most exquisite, cathedrals the most vener- 
able. I hardly know what swelled to my throat as I 
read her letter — such a strong wish for wings — wings, 
such as wealth can furnish ; such an urgent thirst to see, 
to know, to learn. Something internal seemed to ex- 
pand bodily for a minute. 1 was tantalised by the con- 
sciousness of faculties unexercised ; — then, all collapsed 
and I despaired ! 

" My dear ! I would hardly make that confession to 
anyone but yourself, and to you, rather in a letter than 
viva voce." 

Another plan was uppermost in Septem- 
ber and early October. Miss Wooler was 
giving up her school at Dewsbury Moor. 
Would the Brontes take it ? If they were 
disposed to do it, were their attainments in 
the matter of music and modern languages 
such as to warrant the belief that they 
could maintain the high tone of the sem- 
inary, and attract pupils of the better class ? 

More abruptly than she was wont to ad- 
dress her best friend, Charlotte wrote, 
October 17, 1841 : 

1 32 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

"lam not going to Dewsbury Moor, as far as I can 
see at present. It was a decent, friendly proposal on 
Miss Wooler's part ; but Dewsbury Moor is a poisoned 
place to me. Besides, 1 burn to go somewhere else. 1 
think, Nell, 1 see a chance of getting to Brussels. Mary 
Taylor advises me to this step. My own mind and 
feelings urge me. I can't write a word more." 

The chance of having the wings for 
which she had longed hopelessly, came in 
the form of a loan from Miss Branwell, 
whose annuity of fifty pounds had been 
more than sufficient for her modest needs 
during her residence at Haworth. She had 
husbanded her savings for her nieces, and 
Charlotte, aware of this, boldly asked that 
fifty, or perhaps one hundred, pounds be 
laid out upon them now. Emily was to 
go with Charlotte to a Brussels school, 

" the facilities for education are equal, or superior, to 
any other place in Europe. 

" If Emily could share them with me, we could take 
a footing in the world afterwards which we can never do 
now. 1 say, Emily, instead of Anne, for Anne might 
take her turn at some future period if our school answaed. 
I feel an absolute conviction that, if this ad- 
vantage were allowed us, it would be the making of us 
for life." 

The last sentence quoted was prophetic, 
but the mill that brought it to pass ground 

"Going to Brussels" 133 

slowly, and the product was totally dis- 
similar to what the ambitious dreamer 
scheduled to herself and her friends. 

There is a joyous flutter of spirits in the 
letter penned to Ellen in the last month 
spent in England before the momentous 
flitting : 

" Mary has been indefatigable in providing me witli 
information. Sfie has grudged no labour, and scarcely 
any expense, to that end. Mary's price is above rubies. 
I have, in fact, two friends — you and her — staunch and 
true, in whose faith and sincerity 1 have as strong a be- 
lief as I have in the Bible. I have bothered you both, 
you especially ; but you always get the tongs and heap 
coals of fire upon my liead. 1 have had letters to write 
lately to Brussels, to Lille, and to London. 1 have lots 
of chemises, night-gowns, pocket-handl<erchiefs, and 
pockets to make, besides clothes to repair. I have been, 
every week, since I came home, expecting to see Bran- 
well, and he has never been able to get over yet. We 
fully expect him, however, next Saturday. Under these 
circumstances, how can I go visiting ? You tantalise me 
to death, with talking of conversations by the fireside. 
Depend upon it, we are not to have any such for many 
a long month to come. I get an interesting impression 
of old age upon my face, and when you see me next, 1 
shall certainly wear caps and spectacles."* 

Mary Taylor and her brother (we wish 
we knew whether it was "Mark" or 

* Shorter's Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 09. 

1 34 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

"Martin") were returning to the Con- 
tinent, and offered to take charge of the 
Bronte girls. Mr. Bronte insisted, never- 
theless, upon escorting them in person. 
The party of five set out from Yorkshire 
the second week of February, 1842, spent 
a couple of days in London, then pushed on 
to Brussels. Mary and Martha Taylor were 
to study at the Chateau de Koekelberg, on 
the outskirts of the city. The Brontes had 
applied for admission at the Pensionnat 
of Monsieur and Madame Heger in Rue 
d'Isabelle, in the very heart of ancient 

The buildings occupied as a day- and 
boarding-school were old even then. The 
Rue d'Isabelle was an inhabited quarter in 
the thirteenth century. A broad flight of 
stone steps leads from the gay upper town 
to the quieter quarter. In descending these 
one sees directly opposite a long row of 
white houses, two and three storeys in 
height. Between the first and second Stages 
of one of the taller is a sign denoting that 
an ecole communale (that is, a public school) 
is still kept here. What was the Hegers' 
private residence has been cut off from the 
school-buildings, and the garden in the 

Life in the Pensionnat 135 

rear of the hollow square of houses is built 
up in part. 

The arrangement of the schoolrooms 
differs somewhat from that of 1842. The 
great classe has been cut into smaller re- 
ception-rooms, and the dormitories are 
disused, all the pupils in attendance upon 
the sessions of the school being externes, or 

When the diligence deposited the York- 
shire clergyman and his daughters at the 
door bearing Madame Heger's name, there 
were a hundred girls and a large staff of 
teachers in the institution, and all the ma- 
chinery of a successful fashionable seminary 
of polite learning was in full swing. Brus- 
sels is well named "a miniature Paris," 
and Madame Heger's patrons were, for the 
most part, prosperous citizens. Charlotte 
Bronte drew upon memory, not imagina- 
tion, in depicting "Lucy Snowe's " sur- 
roundings and associates in Villette. The 
book is a marvel, less of creative genius than 
of descriptive art. Mr. Shorter says truly, 
" With a copy of Villette in hand it is pos- 
sible to restore every feature of the place." 
The reader who knows Villette and The 
Professor needs no information respecting 

1^6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the external features of the place, and little 
as to Charlotte's ("Lucy's") employments 
and companions. 

Let an extract from The Professor outline 
these last for such as have read neither 
novel : 

"The majority belonged to the class bourgeois ; but 
there were many countesses, there were the daughters 
of two generals and of several colonels, captains, and 
government employes. These ladies sat side by side 
with young females destined to be demoiselles de 
magasin, and with some Flamandes, genuine aborigines 
of the country. In dress all were nearly similar, and in 
manners there was small difference. Exceptions there 
were to the general rule, but the majority gave the tone 
to the establishment, and that tone was rough, boister- 
ous, marked by a point-blank disregard of all forbearance 
towards each other, or their teachers." 

Neither book tells the piteous tale of the 
Bronte sisters' initiation into their new life. 
The rush and the bustle of shifting classes 
and of recitations ; the stares of the well- 
dressed, well-fed girls herding together at 
recess to comment upon the late arrivals ; 
the shrill un-English voices chattering like 
maniacal parrots, in a jargon as unintel- 
ligible to Yorkshire ears as if the strangers 
had never "taken" a French lesson; the 
crowded table in the refectory ; the foreign 

Life in the Pensionnat 137 

cookery; the dormitory, furnished with ten 
beds on each side of a strait central aisle — 
were so many variations of pain and puzzle 
to Charlotte and Emily. As a concession 
to English reserve, they were permitted to 
hang a curtain between their beds at the 
far end of the dormitory and the eighteen 
small white cots beyond. When the school 
was turned out, like wild colts, into the 
garden behind the house for the noon exer- 
cise, the foreigners, older by eight or ten 
years than the eldest Belgian there, walked 
together and apart from the rest, in the 
vine-draped arbour {berceau) near the wall 
on the right of the grounds. 

An odd-looking pair they were to friendly, 
as to curious, eyes. Their dress, plain to 
singularity in Haworth, was biiarre and 
ridiculous in the petty Paris. Long after 
they were discarded by everybody else, 
Emily clung to "mutton-leg" sleeves, full 
at the shoulder, baggy down to the elbow, 
and thence sloping abruptly to the wrist, 
where they fitted closely. Her skirts were 
gathered at the belt and hung, straight, 
limp, and untrimmed, to the ankle. No 
gores or flounces were tolerable in her eyes, 
let who would wear the fripperies. Char- 

138 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

lotte was indifferent to dress, yet Emily's 
biographer, Miss Robinson, more than hints 
at an effort on her part to conform her 
attire to prevailing modes. 

"She" — Emily — "would laugh when 
she found her elder sister trying to arrange 
her homely gowns in the French taste, and 
stalk silently through the large schoolrooms 
with a fierce satisfaction in her own ugly 
sleeves, in the Ha worth cut of her skirts." 

In this respect she was unlike the beauti- 
ful "Shirley." Emily despised all arts per- 
taining to personal adornment. Clothes 
were meant to cover the figure and to keep 
one warm. Beyond this she had no use 
for them. At rising in the morning she 
donned the gown she intended to wear all 
day, and dressed her hair with the like 
view. Arrayed as the loving sister makes 
Shirley bedeck herself on fete-days, Emily 
might have been comely. Miss Robinson, 
after the manner of other biographers, be- 
comes her partisan before her fascinating 
task is half done. She paints Emily Bronte 
at home as 

"a tall, lithe creature, with a grace, half queenly, half 
untamed, in her sudden, supple movements, wearing, 
with picturesque negligence, a white stuff patterned with 

Life in the Pensionnat 139 

lilac ' thunder and lightning ' ; her face clear and pale ; 
her very dark and plenteous brown hair fastened up 
behind with a Spanish comb." 

To Madame Heger, her teachers, and her 
pupils, she was a dowdy, and farouche in 
behaviour. If she had comprehended the 
voluble French in which they exchanged 
witticisms upon her apparel and manners, 
she could not have been more obstinately 
taciturn. Her moods were almost as in- 
clement with two other English girls in the 
foreign school. Charlotte, naturally and 
habitually shy, made friends. Emily re- 
mained a stranger to the last. 

M. Heger, faithfully portrayed in VilletU 
as " Paul Emmanuel," took especial interest 
in his Yorkshire students at an early date 
of their acquaintance. Charlotte speaks of 
him to Miss Nussey as " a man of power as 
to mind, but very choleric and irritable in 
temperament." In spicier phrase, she goes 
on : 

"A little black being, with a face that varies in expres- 
sion. Sometimes, he borrows the lineaments of an 
insane tom-cat ; sometimes, those of a delirious hyena. 
Occasionally, but very seldom, he discards these perilous 
attractions and assumes an air not above one hundred 
degrees removed from mild and gentlemanlike." 

These first impressions were sensibly 

140 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

modified as his hand opened to her avenues 
into the realm of knowledge and research 
for which her quickening intellect had pined 
through restless, hungry years. "We are 
completely isolated in the midst of num- 
bers," she records. "Yet 1 think I am 
never unhappy. My present life is so de- 
lightful, so congenial to my whole nature, 
compared to that of a governess ! My 
time, constantly occupied, passes too 

After the lively sketch of M. Heger al- 
ready quoted, and an abstract of the method 
of instruction he had chosen for the sisters, 
she adds: "Emily and he don't draw 
together well at all. Emily works like a 
horse, and she has had great difficulties to 
contend with — far greater than I have had." 

Yet the sagacious master adjudged Emi- 
ly's to be the finer mind of the two. His 
expressed opinion was to the effect that 
"she should have been a man — a great 
navigator." Her reason was powerful, and 
in grasp sublime ; her turn for logical 
demonstration, phenomenal. There was 
no love lost between them ; French fire 
and English frost were antipathetic to the 
last, yet each did justice to the abilities of 

Life in the Pensionnat 141 

the other. The dogged energy with which 
the proud, dumb girl wrought upon tasks 
he could not make too arduous for her, or 
for ambitious Charlotte, won his respect in 
spite of his dislike of Emily's manner and 
what he stormed at as obstinate adherence 
to her own opinions, particularly when 
these were backed up by her principles. 

The winter slipped by more swiftly than 
they could have believed possible in the 
earlier weeks of homesickness and strange- 
ness. With the opening of the spring, the 
garden was an habitual resort with the 
pupils — "the strange, frolicsome, noisy 
little world," in which the Brontes moved 
without blending with the current of feel- 
ing and action. As the days lengthened, 

"the house became as merry a place as a school could 
be. All day long the broad folding doors and the two- 
leaved casements stood wide open ; settled sunshine 
seemed naturalised in the atmosphere. . We 

lived far more in the garden than under a roof ; classes 
were held, and meals partaken of in the ' grand berceaii.' " 

Charlotte had learned to speak and write 
French with ease and grace, and, under 
M. Heger's lead, the wings of her eager 
mind had borne her far and high into re- 
gions he never thought of tempting his 


142 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Belgian eleves to enter. Encouraged by 
him, siie dared, not merely to think, but to 
analyse subjects and to define her independ- 
ent conclusions. 

Madame Heger was distrusted by the 
English girls under her charge, a sentiment 
of which one who herself trusted nobody, 
should not have complained. She was at- 
tractive in person, polished in manner, 
acute in mind, fluent in speech, a diplo- 
mate born, and endowed with extraordinary 
administrative genius. Her surveillance of 
school and household was incessant, and 
although deftly done, was a secret to none. 
The shoes of silence carried her into every 
classroom, every dormitory and closet 
under her roof, at all hours of day or night. 
Monsieur was irritable, fierce, unreason- 
able, — but he showed his hand in a fair 
game, and said his say in a wordy fight. 
Madame asked no questions when she 
could, by spying, find out all she wished 
to know ; she never scolded, and never 
lost her temper. 

Madame Beck in Villette was Madame 
Heger to the life, and here we have Char- 
lotte's masterly analysis of a character she 
read through to the last leaf : 

Life in the Pensionnat 143 

' Madame was a very great, and a very capable 
woman. The school offered for her powers too limited 
a sphere. She ought to have swayed a nation ; she 
should have been the leader of a turbulent, Jegislative 
assembly. Nobody could have browbeaten her, none irri- 
tated her nerves, exhausted her patience, or over-reached 
her astuteness. In her own single person she could have 
comprised the duties of a first minister and a superintendent 
of police. Wise, firm, faithless ; secret, crafty, passion- 
less ; watchful and inscrutable ; acute and insensate 
— withal, perfectly decorous — what more could be 
desired ? " 

This woman it was wiio, as midsummer 
approaclied, proved her appreciation of the 
sterling qualities of the drole English girls 
by offering to dismiss her English teacher 
and give his place to Charlotte Bronte, and 
to engage Emily as a pupil-teacher to assist 
a music-master. Intense application and 
the iron will that caused M. Heger to rage 
himself black in the face when opposed to 
his, had made Emily a brilliant pianist, with 
a thorough comprehension of the science 
of music as far as her studies had led her. 

"The proposal is kind," writes Charlotte, "and im- 
plies a degree of interest which demands gratitude in 
turn. 1 don't deny 1 sometimes wish to be in England, 
or that I have brief attacks of homesickness, but on the 
whole, 1 have borne a very valiant heart thus far, and 1 
have been happy in Brussels because I have been fully 

144 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

occupied with the employments that I lil<e. Emily is 
making rapid progress in French, German, music, and 
drawing. IWonsieur and iWadame Heger begin to recog- 
nise the valuable ]3arts of her character, under her 

The proposal was accepted, and, instead 
of returning to England for the two months' 
vacation, the Brontes spent it in the almost 
deserted Pensionnat, hard at work. The 
only relief from the continuous strain was 
in the attendance at the school during the 
holidays, of four or five English girls, be- 
longing to a family that had lately removed 
to Brussels. From one of these Mrs. Gas- 
kell had a resume that seems dreary to us 
of the routine duties incumbent upon the 
sisters in vacation and in the term suc- 
ceeding it. 

Their one hour of recreation on week- 
days was spent in the garden. They 
walked in the trellised berceau, or in the 
allee defendue, a sequestered alley forbid- 
den to the pupils because bounded on one 
side by the wall of the Athenee, a boys' 
college. The narrator notes that the pair 
rarely exchanged a word during these 
promenades. If met and addressed directly, 
Charlotte replied, always courteously and 

Life in the Pensionnat 145 

in a soft, even voice, Emily standing by, 
impassive and mute. We do not wonder 
as we read, in close juxtaposition to tiiis 
resume, Mary Taylor's repetition of a re- 
mark made by Charlotte in one of her visits 
to the Chateau de Koekelberg : 

" She seemed to think that most human 
beings were destined, by the pressure of 
worldly interests, to lose one faculty and 
feeling after another, till they went dead 
altogether. ' I hope 1 shall be put into my 
grave as soon as 1 'm dead. I don't want 
to walk about so ! ' " 

Martha Taylor ("Jessie Yorke " ) died in 
October, 1842, after a short illness. Char- 
lotte heard of her danger some hours before 
her death, and hastened to offer help and 
sympathy to Mary. When she reached 
the Chateau it was to hear that the arch, 
engaging pet of Taylor and Bronte house- 
holds had died in the night. 

"I have seen Martha's grave," wrote 
Charlotte, mournfully, — "the place where 
her ashes lie in a foreign country." 

The simple phrase is more pathetic than 
the much-quoted description in Shirley of 
Jessie's last resting-place. 

Close upon this grief came news of Miss 

146 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Branwell's serious illness. Her nieces made 
haste to pack their trunks and engage 
places in the diligence for a hurried journey 
homeward. They were in the act of set- 
ting out when a second letter brought word 
that their aunt had died, October 29, 1842. 



WHILE living, Miss Elizabeth Branwell 
had never been what the Italians 
call siinpatica with any of her nieces. 
Anne, gentle and amiable, was decidedly 
her favourite of the three. Her will proved 
her to be both just and generous. All her 
personal effects were to be divided equally 
by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, with the 
exception of a "japan dressing-case" 
which was to be given to Branwell. After 
her just debts and the expenses of a " mod- 
erate and decent " funeral were paid, the 
residue of her estate was to be invested in 
"good landed security," or deposited "in 
some safe bank," thereto accumulate for 

148 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the benefit of her four nieces, the Bronte 
girls and her namesake, Elizabeth Kings- 
ton, in Penzance, until the youngest 
legatee should attain the age of one-and- 
. twenty. Then they were to share and 
share alike. 

1 have already cited, in evidence of the 
cordial relations existing between herself 
and her brother-in-law, the fact that IVlr. 
Bronte was named first among her ex- 

The will was written in 1833, nine years 
before her decease, when Branwell — her 
pet and pride — was in high favour. Mr. 
Shorter accounts for the small legacy left 
to him by remarking, "The old lady 
doubtless thought that the boy would be 
able to take good care of himself." 

As he assuredly should have been by 
now. His first essay in this direction was 
in the capacity of usher in a school. There, 
his sensitive vanity upon the subject of his 
diminutive stature and red hair made him 
a butt for boys who were quick to discover 
his weak point and merciless in playing 
upon it. He had always been considered 
handsome and captivating. When the lads 
ridiculed his fiery locks, and stood on tip- 

Some of Branwell's Failures 149 

toe as he passed, to suggest the expediency 
of larger growth in a master who assumed 
to manage them — he sulked, threw up the 
position, and went home. 

His next regular situation was that of 
tutor in a private gentleman's house, where, 
according to his own story, dashed off in 
a flashy letter to a friend, his role was that 
of a masculine Tartuffe, " dressed in black, 
and smiling like a saint, or martyr." He 
posed as a teetotaller, "a most sober, ab- 
stemious, patient, mild-hearted, virtuous, 
gentlemanly philosopher, the picture of 
good works, the treasure-house of righteous 
thought." In this character, he tells of 
" drinking tea and talking slander with old 
ladies," while "fair-faced, blue-eyed, dark- 
haired sweet eighteen " sits admiringly 
beside him. 

"She little thinks the Devil is so near 
her ! " subjoins the would-be man-of-pleas- 
ure, complacently. The letter from which 
the choice excerpt is made winds up, smirk- 
ingly, with — "1 must talk to some one 
prettier, so good night, dear boy ! " 

His ambition to win laurels as a Love- 
lace was patent before his flame-coloured 
beard sprouted, and led to serious conse- 

150 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

quences to other and better people than 
himself, in after-days. 

Portrait-painting — and such portraits ! — 
kept him in pocket- and drink-money for 
a while. His father partly coerced, partly 
persuaded him to accept the position which 
Charlotte, in sheer delight at the prospect 
of seeing him "steadied down," had de- 
scribed in such vivacious terms to Ellen 
Nussey — namely, a clerkship on the Leeds 
and Manchester Railway. 

The location was remote from town or 
village, the salary was small, and the duties 
were light. The genius had abundant leisure 
for the cultivation of literary and artistic 
tastes. Instead of availing himself of it, 
he sought the acquaintance of neighbour- 
ing farmers and manufacturers, partaking 
of the rude abundance of their tables and, 
as the shining light in their coarser de- 
bauches, ' ' drinking himself violent, when 
he did not drink himself maudlin." 

It goes without saying that he was dis- 
missed for neglect and misconduct after 
some months of this wretched sort of work. 

From Haworth he wrote that his 

" recovery from almost insanity was retarded by having 
nothing to listen to except the wind, moaning among 

Some of Branwell's Failures 151 

old chimneys and older ash-trees, — nothing to look at 
except heathery hills, walked over when life had all to 
hope for, and nothing to regret with me,— ^ho one to 
speak to except crabbed old Greeks and Romans who 
have been dust the last five thousand years." 

He was still at home and still idle when his 
aunt died, and, during her illness, Mr. 
Weightman, the curate whose name ap- 
pears often in Charlotte's and Ellen Nus- 
sey's correspondence. "One of my dearest 
friends," Branwell styles him in a letter to 
Mr. Grundy, author of Pictures of the Past. 
And of his aunt he adds, — "I have now 
lost the guide and director of all the happy 
days connected with my childhood." 

How fond and firm was his sisters' faith 
in their only brother is proved, incidentally, 
by lively messages exchanged, through 
Charlotte's letters, between him and Ellen 
a month and more after Miss Branwell's 

' ' Branwell wants to know why you carefully exclude 
all mention of him when you particularly send your re- 
gards to every other member of the family. He desires 
to know whether, or in what, he has offended you, or 
whether it is considered improper for a young lady to 
mention the gentlemen of the house." 

Charlotte writes this sportively after Ellen's 

IS2 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

return to Brookroyd from a visit slie paid 
to Hawgrtii in January, 1843. 

In this blindness of devotion is to be 
found the key to the puzzle of the admira- 
tion of his talents and accomplishments felt 
for him by the more richly endowed mem- 
bers of his family — admiration of which 
their minds were never .disabused. 

Miss Robinson hits off his peculiar charm 
aptly when she says : 

" He had a spell for those who heard him speak. 
There was no subject, moral, intellectual, or philosophic, 
too remote or too profound for him to measure it at a 
moment's notice, with the ever-ready fallacious plumb- 
line of his brilliant vanity. He would talk for hours ; be 
eloquent, convincing, almost noble ; and afterw.ird 
accompany his audience to the nearest public-house." 

Charlotte left him in the Parsonage when 
she returned alone to Brussels late in Janu- 
ary. The four had had a serenely happy 
vacation together ; walking on the moors 
when the weather warranted outdoor ex- 
cursions ; reading together in the evenings ; 
exchanging experiences in earnest, or in 
merry vein. We see them at those Christ- 
mas holidays, for the last time, an appar- 
ently united and happy household, hopeful 
for one another, and sanguine in plans for 

Second Year in Brussels 153 

the home-school to be organised at Haworth 
when the ' ' one year more at the most " — in 
which M. Hegerhad predicted that the work 
of preparation for their chosen profession 
"would be completed and completed well " 
— had expired. 

Then — Charlotte would return from Brus- 
sels, bringing diploma and other credentials 
with her that would ensure a clientele for 
the seminary ; then — Anne would resign 
her odious governess-ship ; then — Emily 
would be such a music-mistress as York- 
shire had never seen. Perhaps — for fancy 
grew audacious in building air-castles — the 
proprieties would not debar Branwell from 
teaching drawing and painting in a Young 
Ladies' School conducted by his sisters in 
his father's house. 

The old stone Parsonage would be en- 
larged with the aunt's legacy, to receive 
and lodge boarding pupils comfortably, and 
a few day-scholars might be drawn from the 
neighbouring farmsteads and the country- 
houses of mill-owners. 

This was the dream nursed by Charlotte 
in her lonely journey back to Belgium ; by 
gentle, homesick Anne in turning her face 
toward a new situation ; by Emily, joyfully 

154 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

marking out the home-life to be led under 
the ancient roof-tree by her father, Bran- 
well, and herself, and devising a thousand 
schemes to unite f rugahty and dainty variety 
in her bills-of-fare. Of the three sisters, 
the boy loved Emily best, and she had 
most patience with him, — believed that she 
understood him best of all his kindred. 
Charlotte had no misgivings for the happi- 
ness of either in the first months of her 
second exile. She could have selected no 
better guardian for the wayward, brilliant 
brother than Emily ; no more congenial 
companion for the eccentric sister than 

Like most sequels to successful works of 
whatever kind, Charlotte Bronte's second 
year in Brussels was a mistake. She was 
no longer a learner only, but a teacher as 
well. How repugnant was the task in the 
circumstances that closed about her upon 
her return, the reader of The Professor and 
Villette may imagine. Emily's absence was 
a fretting sorrow that made her isolation in 
the bustling world about her harder to 

" M. and Madame Heger are the only two persons in 
the house for whom 1 really experience regard and es- 

Second Year in Brussels 155 

teem, and of course I cannot be always with them, nor 
even very often," she writes to Ellen ; and again, — 
" There is a constant sense of solitude in the midst of 
numbers. The Protestant, the foreigner, is a solitary 
being, whether as teacher or pupil." 

In the same epistle occurs a warm denial 
of a rumour which had reached her that "the 
future epoux of Mademoiselle Bronte is on 
the Continent." 

" If these charitable people knew the total seclusion 
of the life I lead, — that I never exchange ^ word with 
any other man than M. Heger, and seldom, indeed, with 
him, — they would, perhaps, cease to suppose any such 
chimerical and groundless notion had influenced my 

She laboured assiduously upon the studies 
that were to qualify her for the principal- 
ship of the home-school — now the sum of 
her ambitions. In teaching she was as 
conscientious as in studying. The term 
was long — from the first of February to the 
middle of August ; her fellow-teachers 
were uncongenial ; her pupils respected, 
without troubling themselves to love, the 
alien by birth and faith ; Martha Taylor was 
dead, Mary Taylor was in New Zealand ; the 
two English families that had opened their 
houses to her on holidays and Sundays 

156 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

were no longer resident in Brussels, and 
Madame Heger had conceived a dislike of 
the outspoken Protestant sub-teacher who 
scorned to play the spy and regarded the 
eavesdropper and the pryer into private 
letters as no better than a thief. What un- 
recorded passages at arms these two may 
have had can be guessed at from reading 
Villette and The Professor, and the bio- 
graphies of Charlotte Bronte. While she 
was an inmate of the Hegers' house Char- 
lotte was honourably reserved as to these 

She is more communicative on this point, 
as upon others, to Ellen Nussey than to any 
one else, and the nearest approach to open 
complaint of her superior that ever crept 
into her letters to Ellen is discreet, while 

The dreary summer vacation passed by 
her in "the great, deserted Pensionnat, 
with only one teacher for a companion," 
and that one a woman without breeding or 
character, — "a cold, systematic sensualist," 
— was over. The long, solitary walks, the 
visits paid, in utter loneliness of heart, to 
Martha's grave in the foreign cemetery, the 
footsore wanderings through boulevards 

Second Year in Brussels isy 

and alleys into the fields beyond the city 
limits, with no prospect except other fields, 
thinly dotted with trees and outlined by 
prim hedges, the wakeful nights, and silent, 
appetiteless meals — were exchanged for the 
welcome round of prescribed duties. Upon 
one of the many fete-days that relieved the 
monotony of work for the other teachers, 
she wrote to Ellen : 

"You, living in the country, can iiardly believe it is 
possible life can be so monotonous in the centre of a 
brilliant capital like Brussels, but so it is. I feel it most 
on holidays, when all the girls and teachers go out to 
visit, and it sometimes happens that I am left, during 
several hours, quite alone, with four great desolate 
schoolrooms at my disposition. I try to read, I try to 
write, but in vain. I then wander from room to room, 
but the silence and loneliness of all the house weigh 
down one's spirits like lead. 

" You .will hardly believe that Madame Heger (good, 
kind as 1 have described her) never comes near me on 
these occasions. I own 1 was astonished the first time 
I was left alone thus ; when everybody was enjoying 
the pleasures of a fete-day with their friends, and she 
knew 1 was quite by myself, and never took the least 
notice of me. Yet, 1 understand she praises me very 
much to everybody, and says what excellent lessons 1 
give. She is not colder to me than she is to the other 
teachers, but they are less dependent, on her than I am. 
They have relations and acquaintances in Brussels. 

" You remember the letter she wrote me when 1 was 

158 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

in England ? How kind and affectionate that was ! Is 
it not odd ? 

" In the meantinne, the complaints 1 make at present 
are a sort of relief which 1 permit myself. In all other 
respects I am well satisfied with my position, and you 
may say so to people who inquire after me (if any one 
does). Write to me, dear, whenever you can. You do 
a good deal when you send me a letter, for you comfort 
a very desolate heart." 

It has seemed good, in the temporal un- 
fitness of things, unto certain biographical 
essayists and sensational penny-a-liners, to 
deduce, from what Mrs. Gaskell deplores 
as the "silent estrangement between Ma- 
dame Heger and Miss Bronte in the second 
year of her residence in Brussels," the 
romantic and unsavoury conclusion of a 
hopeless passion on the part of the English 
teacher for one of her employers. This 
conclusion — bolstered by forced and dishon- 
ouring interpretations of passages such as 1 
have just quoted, bearing upon Charlotte's 
unhappiness in her isolation, her impatience 
under the limitations of strangerhood and 
religious prejudices — has been formulated 
into a theory and dissected, ad nauseam, by 
critics and scandal-lovers on both sides of 
the Atlantic. 1 cannot sufficiently commend 
the dignified brevity of Mr. Shorter's me- 

Monsieur Heger i^q 

thod of disposing of a discussion thiat should 
never hiave been opened. 

" Madame Heger and her family, it must be admitted, 
have kept this impression afloat. Madame Heger re- 
fused to see Mrs. Gaskell when she called upon her in 
the Rue d'lsabelle ; and her daughters will tell you that 
their father broke off his correspondence with Miss 
Bronte because his favourite English pupil showed an 
undue extravagance of devotion. 

" Now to all this 1 do not hesitate to give an emphatic 
contradiction, a contradiction based upon the only 
independent authority available." 

After recapitulating the testimony of 
Charlotte's surviving schoolfellows — Miss 
Laetitia Wheelwright and her sisters — in 
support of his refutation of the slander, he 
proceeds : 

" Madame Heger did, indeed, hate Charlotte Bronte 
in her later years. This is not unnatural when we re- 
member how that unfortunate woman has been gibbeted 
for all time in the characters of Mile. Zoraide Reuter and 
Madame Beck. But, in justice to the creator of these 
scathing portraits, it may be mentioned that Charlotte 
Bronte took every precaution to prevent VilUtte from 
obtaining currency in the city which inspired it. . 
She had received a promise that there should be no 
translation, and that the book would never appear in 
the French language. . Immediately after her 

death the novel appeared in the only tongue understood 
by Madame Heger."* 

* Shorter's Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 109. 

i6o Charlotte Bronte at Home 

To this may be joined the possibility 
that the original of M. Paul Emmanuel, be- 
ing an inordinately vain man, even for a 
Franco-Belgian, was not averse to the re- 
putation of having inspired his most dis- 
tinguished eleve with an unconquerable 
adoration of himself. He corresponded 
with her after she left school, and she drew 
much intellectual gratification from his let- 
ters, vivacious, stimulating, and sparkhng 
with the caustic wit that made him to be 
both admired and dreaded in professional 
and in private life. Charlotte's answers 
were brilliant essays that might have been 
read aloud by the Brussels town-crier, yet 
Madame disapproved so strongly of the 
association that he instructed Charlotte to 
address him, for the future, at the Royal 
Athenee, where he was a professor. The 
caution was ill-advised; it may have been 
over-crafty. In the true spirit of a gal- 
lant intrigant, he may have devised this 
manoeuvre for feeling his way to a fuller 
understanding with his correspondent, and 
as a test of her real sentiments to him. If 
she obeyed the injunction, he was sure of 
his standing in her affections. The con- 
quest was not important, but it counted 

Monsieur Heger i6i 

for one more upon his list, and it was 
a novel pleasure to win the first place in 
the well-kept heart of a demure "Eng- 
lish Mees, " whose genius he recognised. 
Aware of his wife's dislike of her late sub- 
ordinate, and that Charlotte was not ig- 
norant of it, he, as a man of the world, 
comprehended just what concealment of 
the exchange of letters from the lynx-eyed 
snrveillante signified, and what was implied 
by mutual confession of the expediency of 
secrecy. Whatever motive prompted the 
request, the subtle diplomat was foiled by 
the single-minded integrity of the country 

After Jane Eyre had made her famous, 
she was asked by Miss Wheelwright if she 
still corresponded with M. Heger. In reply 
Charlotte stated the simple fact 1 have al- 
luded to. M. Heger had told her that his 
wife disapproved of his writmg to, or re- 
ceiving letters from, her, and directed her 
how to evade her surveillance. 

"1 stopped writing at once," said Char- 
lotte, in the frank sincerity of innocence. 
" 1 would not have dreamed of writing to 
him when 1 found it was disagreeable to 
his wife" — and with calm emphasis, — 

1 62 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

"Certainly I would not write unknown to 

Mr. Shorter's dispassionate conclusion of 
the whole matter is cordially seconded by 
all who have had the patience to sift the 
slander thoroughly, and the candour to re- 
pudiate indignantly the tardy attempt to 
cast a shadow upon the character of a great 
and a pure woman: 

"Let, then, this silly and offensive im- 
putation be now and forever dismissed from 
the minds of Charlotte Bronte's admirers, if 
indeed it had ever lodged there." 



ON December 19, 1843, Charlotte Bronte 
wrote to her sister Emily from 
Brussels : 

" I have taken my determination. I tiope to be at 
home the day after New Year's Day. I have told 
Madame Heger. But in order to come home 1 shall be 
obliged to draw on my cash for another £s. 1 have 
only £■) at present, and as there are several little things 
1 should like to buy before I leave Brussels — which, you 
know, cannot be got as well in England — £} would not 
suffice. Low spirits have afflicted me much lately, but 
I hope all will be well when I get home — above all, if I 
find papa and you and B. and A. well. I am not ill in 
body. It is only the mind which is a trifle shaken — for 
want of comfort. 

" 1 shall try to cheer up now. — Good-bye. 

"C. B." 

The "if 1 find" had sad significance. 

1 64 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Her sisters had tried to iiide from her the 
knowledge of disasters that were creeping 
with fatal certainty toward the home that 
had seemed tranquil and safe a year ago. 
One of the strongest links in the chain of 
circumstantial evidence forged by the pur- 
veyors of the malodorous scandal treated of 
in the last chapter is a sentence in one of 
Charlotte's letters to Miss Nussey of a date 
subsequent by several years to her depart- 
ure from Brussels : 

" 1 returned to Brussels after aunt's death, 
against my conscience, prompted by what 
then seemed an irresistible impulse. 1 was 
punished for my selfish folly by a total 
withdrawal, for more than two years, of 
happiness and peace of mind." 

The explanation of the remark is as sim- 
ple as her own uprightness. We have seen 
how she took upon her young shoulders 
the elder-sisterly duties laid down at the 
grave's mouth by Maria, and that the re- 
sponsibility had never been demitted by 
her scrupulous conscience. At the death 
of the aunt who had been the nominal mis- 
tress of the house and the guardian of the 
motherless children, it was borne in strongly 
upon Charlotte's mind that she ought to 

Bad News from Home 165 

forego her dreams of the completed equip- 
ment recommended by M. Heger as essen- 
tial to her success as an instructress, together 
with her desire to learn German for the 
sake of the rich literature of that language, 
and to perfect herself in French and feed 
her ardent mind with the strong meat it 
craved. Her place was, she felt, at home. 
When Emily persisted in her refusal to re- 
turn to Brussels, asserting her right to 
remain in the Haworth out of which she 
was miserable and never well, Charlotte 
yielded with secret satisfaction for which a 
conscience, sensitive to morbidness, up- 
braided her afterward. 

For things had gone badly in the Parson- 
age in her absence. The reason assigned 
to Madame Heger for what seemed an 
abrupt resolution to return to England was 
Mr. Bronte's impending blindness. A cat- 
aract was forming upon each eye, and 
months of darkness and depression must 
elapse before an operation could be at- 

This was true as far as it went, but it 
did not go nearly all the gloomy way. 
Emily was intensely uneasy at the in- 
fluence exerted over her father by Mr. 

i66 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Weightman's successor. The new curate, 
a rollicking Irishman, richly deserved the 
castigation he received in Shirley us "Peter 
Augustus Malone." If the whole truth 
were known, it would be evident, I think, 
that Mr. Bronte had troubles of his own at 
this time. He may not have been fond of 
his sister-in-law when she was alive, but 
she belonged to his generation, and her 
years of faithful service in his household 
gave her a hold upon his heart as upon his 
gratitude. He missed her sadly, — and 
Emily was a poor substitute for the woman 
who had seen in him the true head of the 
house, the master whose comfort and 
wishes were to be consulted above every- 
thing else in the conduct of affairs. Emily 
was an excellent housekeeper, and, intel- 
lectually, a more congenial companion for 
her scholarly parent than Miss Branwell. 
The fact remains that, when Anne had gone 
back to her post as governess to the daugh- 
ters of the Reverend Mr. Robinson at Thorp 
Green, and Branwell had accompanied her 
as tutor to Mr. Robinson's boys, the Vicar 
of Haworth was lonely and low in spirits. 
The curate, with his devil-may-care rattle, 
diverted his thoughts, and the curate's 


Bad News from Home 167 

Irish whiskey raised the tone of his nerves. 
Parson and assistant drank together until 
the parish whispered ominously of what 
might be the end of their carousals, and 
Emily, goaded to desperation by anxiety, 
took Charlotte into her confidence. Proud, 
and apparently self-reliant to the rest of the 
world, she always leaned in spirit upon the 
elder sister, as upon her arm in their taci- 
turn promenades in the garden behind the 
Pensionnat in the Rue d'lsabelle. 

The shock of the news to Charlotte is 
inadequately described in her remark to 
Emily that she is "a trifle shaken." The 
instant pang of self-reproach in the thought 
that she might have averted the disaster 
had she stayed at home, left pain that was 
slow in departing. The effort to restore 
her father to his former feelings and habits ; 
sorrow at his downfall ; the mortification 
and the nervous strain consequent upon the 
trial, may well have "robbed her of peace 
of mind " even before misgivings as to 
Branwell's behaviour and fate mingled ele- 
ments of more active bitterness in the cup 
held to her patient lips. 

"I think," she wrote to Ellen Nussey, 
three weeks after her arrival in England, 

168 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

"however long 1 may live, 1 shall never 
forget what the parting with M. Heger cost 
me. It grieved me so much to grieve him 
who has been so true, kind, and disinter- 
ested a friend." 

He had disapproved so strongly of her 
resignation of her situation before the cur- 
riculum he had indicated was completed, 
that they nearly quarrelled. " Haworth 
seems such a lonely, quiet spot, buried 
away from the world," is a sentence on the 
same page. " 1 no longer regard myself as 
young — indeed I shall soon be twenty- 
eight, and it seems as if I ought to be work- 
ing and braving the rough realities of the 
world as other people do." 

The realities were soon to be rough 
enough, although not of the kind she had 
coveted. While she and Emily sat together 
in the parlour, making a set of new shirts 
for the absent brother, and while tramping 
the moors, — "to the great damage of our 
shoes, but, 1 hope, to the benefit of our 
health," — brains and tongue were engaged 
upon the scheme of the home-school, their 
one hope of uniting the family and earn- 
ing a livelihood for themselves and their 
purblind father. 

Home-School Abandoned 169 

We will not linger upon the wearisome 
waiting of the ensuing year (1844). Circu- 
lars were prepared and distributed, private 
letters written to everybody who might be 
able to forward their plans. The two girls 
at home, and Anne at Thorp Green, busied 
themselves with the duties that lay nearest 
their hands and tried to be patient as the 
months wore away without a ray of en- 
couragement. Charlotte had resigned all 
hope of success before the earliest snow- 
drops bloomed in the Parsonage garden. 

" Depend upon it," she wrote to a friend 
who had interested herself in behalf of the 
project, "if you were to persuade a mamma 
to bring her child to Haworth, the aspect 
of the place would frighten her, and she 
would probably take the dear girl back with 
her, instanter. We are glad that we have 
made the attempt, and we will not be cast 
down because it has not succeeded." 

Anne and Branwell were at home for the 
midsummer holidays. Except that she was 
paler and quieter than was her former wont, 
Charlotte saw no alteration in the "little 
sister." It was a deep delight to pet and 
nurse her, as in her baby days, and to have 
her as a third in the walks and talks that 

170 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

were the pleasures of the lonely life in the 
old grey house it "would have been folly 
to alter while there was so little likelihood 
of ever getting pupils." Anne was always 
satisfactory except as to bodily strength. 
She rallied, as usual, in the bracing air of 
the uplands and the atmosphere of home. 

Branwell was a disappointment to the 
whole family and a mystery. Heretofore, 
the spoiled son of the house had been af- 
fectionate and gay-humoured, willing to 
please others when doing so did not in- 
commode himself, lively in talk, and, as 
the sisters thought, fascinating in manner. 
He was now moody and recklessly merry 
by turns, cross without reason, now boast- 
ing of successes he had won, anon berating 
himself as an ignominious failure, and de- 
claring that he was the victim of remorse, 
pursued by the furies. Such wild gas- 
conades had never before been heard in the 
decent dwelling. It was a positive relief to 
those left behind when he cut short his 
holiday and hurried back to Thorp Green 
and work. 

At the New Year of 1845 he was again 
with the puzzled father and sisters. Ap- 
parently he was doing better than ever be- 

Home-School Abandoned 171 

fore, holding his tutorship and giving 
satisfaction to his employers. "He is 
quieter and less irritable on the whole than 
he was in summer," is Charlotte's record 
of the holiday visit. "Anne is, as usual, 
always good, mild, and patient." 

The school project was dead and buried. 
Not one pupil had applied for admission in 
response to circulars and private letters. 
The excitement of preparation and expect- 
ation, the alternations of hope and dis- 
couragement, the talks of how this room 
could be cut in two, how a vAng could be 
thrown out from the gable nearest the road, 
windows enlarged, and others opened — all 
this was now as dream-like as the busy 
life at Brussels. Life was a stagnant pool 
on which mossy scum gathered with the 
slow passage of time. 

In JVlarch Charlotte tells Ellen Nussey : 

" I can hardly tell you how time gets on at Haworth. 
There is no event whatever lo mark its progress. One 
day resembles another, and all have heavy, lifeless physi- 
ognomies. Sunday, baking-day, and Saturday are the 
only ones that have any distinctive mark. Meantime, 
life wears away. 1 shall soon be thirty ; and 1 have 
done nothing yet. Sometimes I get melancholy at the 
prospect before and behind me. Yet it is wrong and 
foolish to repine. Undoubtedly, my duty directs me to 

172 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

stay at home for the present. There was a time when 
Haworth was a very pleasant place to me. It is not so 
now. 1 feel as if we were all buried here. 1 long to 
travel, to work, to live a life of action." 

The dead level was moved from beneath 
by a new dread. In reading to her almost 
blind father the reader's own eyes failed 
her. She fancied that the calamity which 
had befallen him was about to overtake her. 
Loss of sight would be a supreme sorrow. 
In a letter to M. Heger, she confides am- 
bitions of which she had already spoken to 
Emily and Anne. The ardent mind was 
tearing away the swaddling-bands of con- 
ventionality and diffidence of her native 
powers. In every pulse and nerve it was 
quickening and fighting its way toward the 
air. Formerly she had passed days, weeks 
—entire months — in writing, she confesses, 
and not without hope of achieving some- 
thing worthy in time: 

' ' But at present my eyesight is too weak. If I were 
to write much 1 should become blind. This weakness 
of sight is to me a terrible privation. But for that, do 
you know what I would do, iVlonsieur ? I should write 
a book and dedicate it to my master of literature, the 
only master that I have ever had — to you, Monsieur ! 
1 have often told you in French how much I respect you, 
how much I am indebted to your goodness, to your 

Bran well's Return Home 173 

counsels, I could wish to say it once in English. This 
cannot be. It is not to be thought of. A literary 
career is closed to me." 

How far she was from feeling the resign- 
ation she here professes to have attained 
crops out in other letters. 

' ' Write again soon, for 1 feel rather fierce, 
and want stroking down," is the winding 
up of one. 

Her anxiety on her father's account in- 
creased daily. 

"His sight diminishes weekly. . . . 
He fears that he will be nothing in his par- 
ish. I try to cheer him. Sometimes I suc- 
ceed temporarily, but no consolation can 
restore his sight, or atone for the want of 
it. Still, he is never peevish, never impa- 
tient — only anxious and dejected." 

Like the bursting of a wind-storm over 
the rufifled pool was the spectacle that 
awaited her upon her return from the only 
visit she allowed herself to make in the sad, 
tedious summer of 1845. Taking advantage 
of Anne's arrival at Haworth for the mid- 
summer vacation, Charlotte accepted Ellen 
Nussey's reiterated invitation to pass a few 
days with her at Brookroyd. While she 
was enjoying this breathing spell, Branwell 

174 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

made an unexpected appearance in his 
father's house. Within twenty-four hours 
afterwards he had a violent attack of illness, 
the effect of a recent debauch. 

On the very day of Charlotte's return he 
received by mail from Mr. Robinson a stern 
dismissal from his tutorship, coupled with 
a command never to show his face again 
at Thorp Green. 

A terrible scene ensued, upon the par- 
ticulars of which I have no disposition to 
dwell. Branwell's story — told a hundred 
times to whomsoever would hearken to his 
drivellings, and with variations that should 
have discounted the authenticity of it — was 
that Mrs. Robinson, her husband's junior 
by a score of years, had (to quote from his 
narrative to his friend and biographer, Mr. 
Francis Grundy) "showed him a degree 
of kindness which, when he " (Branwell) 
"was deeply grieved one day at her hus- 
band's conduct, ripened into declarations of 
more than ordinary feeling. 

"Although she is seventeen years my 
senior, all combined to an attachment on 
my part, and led to reciprocations which 1 
had little looked for, " is a phrase that brands 
the writer as a cad and a puppy, who 

Branwell's " Shameful Story " 175 

would not scruple to sacrifice a woman's 
reputation to liis vanity. The conviction 
is deepened by tiie mention in the same 
recital — or romance — of "the probability 
of her becoming free to give me herself and 
her estate." 

Mrs. Gaskell believed Branwell's version 
of the catastrophe, which, he declared to 
his unhappy death-day, had wrecked his 
prospects, his ambitions, and his heart. 
Legal investigation into the shameful story 
after the publication of the Gaskell biogra- 
phy of Charlotte Bronte proved beyond 
any reasonable doubt that the intrigue was 
largely the figment of a brain disordered by 
drink and opium. 

It is within the bounds of probability 
that Mrs. Robinson may have amused some 
idle hours by conversation with the versatile 
tutor who talked so well, and evidently 
admired her mature beauty. That the af- 
fair, which she never thought of as such, 
ever progressed beyond the initial stage of 
a pretty woman's enjoyment of a bright 
young fellow's appreciation of her personal 
charms, is the most meagre of possibilities. 

However fallacious the hopes based upon 
this good-natured toleration of his devoirs, 

1 76 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and however mendacious the tales that 
outraged the moral perceptions of his rela- 
tives, not one of them doubted the sub- 
stance of the narrative. Mrs. Gaskell had 
it, with such loathsome details as a virtuous 
girl, brought up amid puritanical surround- 
ings, could bring herself to repeat. Father 
and sisters lived and died in the full belief 
that a false wife and depraved mother was 
accountable for their darling's ruin. He 
was so seldom sober after this that he may 
have wrought his own imagination up (or 
down) to the pitch of believing his own 

Ellen Nussey was the one person with- 
out the house of mourning who was cog- 
nisant of the true state of affairs. She was 
in feeling, and almost in fact, a daughter of 
the home so darkly overcast by the mis- 
conduct of him who had been almost a 
brother to her in happier days. To her 
Charlotte unburdened her heart when the 
load was insupportable. 

On June 17, 1846, we have this record: 

"We, I am sorry to say, have been somewhat more 
harassed than usual lately. The death of Mr. Robinson, 
which took place about three weeks, or a month ago, 
served Branwell for a pretext to throw all about him 

Bran well's " Shameful Story " 177 

into hubbub and confusion with his emotions, etc. 
Shortly after came news from all hands that Mr. Robin- 
son had altered his will before he died, and effectually 
prevented all chance of a marriage between his widow 
and Branwell ; that she should not have a shilling if she 
ever ventured to re-open any communication with him. 
Of course, he then became intolerable. To Papa, he 
allows rest neither day nor night, and he is continually 
screwing money out of him, sometimes threatening that 
he will kill himself if it is withheld from him. 

' ' He says Mrs. Robinson is now insane, that her 
mind is a complete wreck owing to remorse for her con- 
duct towards Mr. Robinson (whose end, it appears, was 
hastened by distress of mind) and grief for having lost 
him " (Branwell). " I do not know how much to believe 
of what he says, but I fear she is very ill."* 

In the first edition of Mrs. Gasitell's Life 
of Charlotte Bronte she relates an inci- 
dent connected with "the news from all 
hands," referred to by Charlotte, and which 
is to this day current gossip in Haworth. 
The story, in brief, is to the effect that the 
widow of Mr. Robinson sent a special mes- 
senger to inform Branwell of the prohibitory 
codicil to her husband's will ; that, when a 
summons to meet her envoy at the Black 
Bull reached the infatuated youth, he 
dressed himself in his best suit, and "fairly 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page i Jb. 

178 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

danced down the churchyard," to keep the 
appointment. The bearer of Mrs. Robin- 
son's message was closeted with her lover 
in the "brown parlour " for half an hour 
or so, then came out, mounted his horse, 
and went his way. 

Much later in the day, some one passing 
the closed door of the parlour heard strange, 
stertorous breathing, and entering, saw 
Branwell Bronte lying on the floor "in a 
sort of fit." 

It would seem certain that a man from 
Thorp Green had an interview with the 
late tutor, and brought him unwelcome 
news. When we learn from Mr. Shorter's 
narrative, that no such clause as was re- 
ported by Branwell was attached to Mr. 
Robinson's will, which "put no restraint 
whatever upon the actions of Mrs. Robin- 
son," furthermore, that Mrs. Gaskell's law- 
yer was "fain to confess that his client 
advanced certain statements on insufficient 
testimony " — we are driven back upon the 
persuasion, already expressed, that the 
ugly tale owed framework, as well as 
colour, to the diseased imagination of a 
drunkard and an opium-eater. Something 
of his damaging talk had doubtless reached 

Branwells " Shameful Story " lyq 

Mrs. Robinson. Or he may have written 
to her after her husband's death. In either 
case, she acted with firmness and propriety 
in notifying him that there must be no 
more folly of that kind, and forbidding him 
to hold any further communication with her. 
A verbal message was safer than a letter, 
when she had to deal with such a suitor. 

His family and the neighbourhood had 
nothing but his word for what passed in 
the "brown parlour." Charlotte, at least, 
was not in full sympathy with him when 
she wrote in June, "I do not know how 
much to believe." 

Miss Mary F. Robinson, Emily's biogra- 
pher, blames Charlotte for her stern repro- 
bation of her fallen brother. When she 
said to Ellen Nussey that she "could not, 
and would not, invite her to Haworth while 
Branwell was at home," that, since she 
could not say one word, truthfully, in ex- 
tenuation of his conduct, she would "hold 
her tongue," she signified that she had 
cast him out of her heart. His erotic rav- 
ings were disgusting ribaldry to her ap- 
prehension ; his presence — red-eyed, with 
bloated sacs above the cheek-bones, and 
pendulous jaw — was offensive to every in- 

i8o Charlotte Bronte at Home 

stinct of a pure and modest nature. The 
father might sleep in the room with him 
to prevent him from blowing out his mad- 
dened brains, and Emily sit up into the 
small hours to "let in the prodigal and lead 
him in safety to his rest. " Charlotte and 
Anne would be partaker in no man's sins, 
whatever might be the bond of blood and 
association. " Anne could only shudder at 
his sin, and Charlotte was too indignant 
for pity." 

He pitied himself too extravagantly to 
awaken generous compassion in a stronger 

A biographer relates, in illustration of this 
solace and salve of a weak, diseased con- 
science, an anecdote of the sister's behaviour 
to the Castaway, as he loved to call himself. 
He brought word to her one day that one 
of the Sunday-school girls was ill and that 
he had visited her and read a chapter in the 
Bible and a hymn to her at her request. 
Charlotte turned upon him a look of won- 
dering incredulity that " wounded him 
as if some one had struck him a blow in 
the mouth." 

Then, seeming to "accuse herself of 
having wronged me, she smiled kindly 





The Unrepentant Prodigal i8i 

upon me and said, ' She is my little scholar 
and I will go and see her.' 

" I replied not a word. I was too much 
cut up. When she was gone, I came over 
here to the ' Black Bull,' and made a night 
of it in sheer disgust and desperation. Why 
could they not give me some credit when 1 
was trying to be good ? " 

Comment is superfluous. Like other 
morally infirm people, he cringed and 
whined at the lightest lash of retributive 
justice. He would have the prodigal's 
welcome-feast served ungrudgingly to him 
while still in the foreign land and before he 
had felt the gnawings of hunger, much less 
the pangs of contrition. 

He did not need scenes like these to drive 
him to the Black Bull. Every penny he 
could beg or borrow he spent there, and in 
the surreptitious purchase of opium, resort- 
ing to the meanest subterfuges to obtain 
the deadly drug. More than one attack of 
delirium tremens made a hell of the cham- 
ber he shared with the brave old blind man. 
The brooding quiet of the daintily kept 
homestead was broken by maniacal yells 
and drunken oaths. The Parson's son and 
the pride of the village was a common sot 

1 82 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and hopeless blackguard, and all Yorkshire 
knew it. 

Well might Charlotte write, on the last 
day of the black and bitter Old Year 1845, 
to Ellen, who had told her of a similar 
affliction in another family: 

"You say well that no sufferings are so 

awful as those brought on by dissipation. 

It seems grievous indeed that 

those who have not sinned should suffer 

so largely." 





A LITTLE volume of poems— " a thinner 
one than was calculated upon," re- 
marked Charlotte in surprised disappoint- 
ment — was put together by the three sisters 
in 1845, and timidly offered to a publisher. 

By accident, Charlotte had discovered 
some manuscripts of Emily's which she 
thought "condensed and terse, vigorous 
and genuine." 

"To my ear," she says, "they had also 
a peculiar music, wild, melancholy, and 

When, by hours of entreaty and argu- 
ment, she had "persuaded Emily that 
such poems merited publication," Anne 


184 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" quietly produced some of her own com- 
positions. . . . 

"I tlioughit tiiat these verses, too, had a 
sweet, sincere pathos of their own. We 
had very early cherished the dream of one 
day being authors. 

"We agreed to arrange a small selection 
of our poems, and, if possible, to get them 

"Averse to personal publicity, we veiled 
our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, 
and Acton Bell." 

When to the simple statements made 
above are added others to the effect that the 
volume was issued at the authors' risk, an 
advance of ^^31, los. having been made 
by the sisters before it was printed ; finally, 
that it fell so nearly still-born from the 
press as to merit the title of an utter failure, 
— the poor, brief, pitiful tale is told. 

In a letter to Thomas De Quincey, accom- 
panying a presentation-copy, Charlotte 
says, with jauntiness that is a gallant, if 
insufficient, mask for an aching heart : 

"The consequences predicted have, of course, over- 
taken us. Our book is found to be a drug. No man 
needs it, or heeds it. . . 

" Before transferring the edition to the trunk-makers, 

Still-Born Volume of Verse 185 

we have decided on distributing as presents a few copies 
of what we cannot sell." 

This was the end of the literary venture 
that had helped to lift the crushed spirits of 
the trio above the wreck of the love, the 
hopes, and the ambitions centred in their 
hapless brother. While the sisters talked 
over the enterprise in their nightly prome- 
nade of the humble parlour, and Charlotte 
wrote formal, old-maidish letters signed 
" C. Bell " to the publishers in London, and 
one and all concerted economies and sacri- 
fices by which the advance-money could 
be raised without depleting the family 
finances — the horror in the house grew 
more appalling. 

"In his present state, it is scarcely possi- 
ble to stay in the room where he is. What 
the future has in store I do not know," 
says Charlotte in JVlarch, 1846. 

The book of verses stole into, and out of, 
the literary world in May. In June we hear 
that "good situations have been offered to 
Branwell, for which, by a fortnight's work, 
he could have qualified himself But he 
will do nothing except drink and make us 
all wretched." 

In August the oculists pronounced Mr. 

1 86 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Bronte ready to be operated upon for cat- 
aract, and Charlotte accompanied him to 
Manchester for that purpose. The opera- 
tion was completely successful, the power- 
ful constitution and courage of the venerable 
patient contributing, in no small measure, 
to the happy result. 

On August 25th, while awaiting the ar- 
rival of the surgeon and his instruments, 
and doing her brave best to keep up her 
father's spirits for the crucial trial, Char- 
lotte received a small parcel by post. It 
was the MS. of The Professor, a one-vol- 
ume novel she had written after sending 
out the poems to try their fortunes among 
critical publishers. The story was rejected 
— without thanks — by the firm to which 
she had submitted it. 

The poems — of which I always think as 
a triple-stemmed lily, springing, straight 
and stainless, from the mean soil of such 
new and degrading experiences as had 
visited the secluded home since the mis- 
erable day of the prodigal's unrepentant 
return — had died in the hour of their 
birth. By a professional verdict. The Tro- 
fessor — the first-fruits of the Brussels 
life, the harbinger of the unborn Villette 

" The Professor " 187 

— was doomed to a yet more ignominious 

In the fortniglit that followed the opera- 
tion, in the intervals of reading and talking 
to her father, as he lay with bandaged 
eyes in a darkened room, Charlotte not 
only started The Professor again upon his 
travels from one publishing-house to an- 
other, but sat down to write the opening 
chapters oi Jane Eyre. The fructifying bud, 
having had a glimpse of day and sunshine, 
must and would grow. When once the 
story that was to thrill the nations got hold 
of her, she knew that she had found her 
way into a second and glorious life that 
was to be balm and compensation for the 
"things that are seen." 

The present and temporal demanded all 
the fortitude she could summon from every 
source. Anne fell ill in the unprecedented 
severity of the next winter. 

" England might really have taken a slide up into the 
Arctic Zone," is Charlotte's mid-December weather re- 
port. "The sky looks like ice ; the earth is frozen ; 
the wind is as keen as a two-edged blade. 
Nothing happens at Haworth ; nothing, at least, of a 
pleasant kind. One little incident occurred about a 
week ago to sting us to life. . . It was merely 

1 88 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

the arrival of a sheriff's officer on a visit to Branwell, in- 
viting him either to pay his debts, or tal<e a trip to 
Yorl<. Of course his debts had to be paid. It is not 
agreeable to lose money, time after time, in this way. 
But where is the use of dwelling on such subjects ? It 
will make him no better." 

Mr. Bronte was ill with influenza. Tabby 
was over seventy, dim of sight, hard of 
hearing, and hard to please, even by the 
" children " she idolised. The only water- 
supply of the Parsonage was from the well 
at the back, beyond which arose a sloping 
hillside crowded with graves ; the only 
heat within the stone walls and above the 
flagged floors came from a starved-looking 
grate in each "living-room." The cold of 
the draughty halls bit the flesh and stabbed 
to the dividing asunder of the joints and 
marrow. Anne's asthmatic cough was 
fearfully distressing, often preventing her 
from lying down at night ; Charlotte suf- 
fered excruciatingly from toothache, and 
began to look " grey, old, worn, and sunk," 
to herself in the mirror. 

We know, now, that the weird and 
wonderful story in which she lived during 
the few hours she could spare for desk and 
pen, nerved her to pull through the cruel 

" The Professor " 189 

winter. It was one, and a great one, of 
the "many, many things she had to be 
thankful for," when spring, shivering and 
reluctant, crept up the frozen moorlands. 
A promised visit from Ellen Nussey was a 
wholesome stimulant to Charlotte's spent 
forces. This was to have been paid in 
May, and after several postponements came 
to pass in August. 

In August, too, The Professor knocked, 
for the sixth time, at a publisher's door. 
The author was not surprised to receive, a 
few days thereafter, the MS. that had been 
submitted to Messrs. Smith & Elder, Corn- 
hill. She was pleasurably excited that it 
was accompanied by a two-page letter of 
candid, friendly criticism from Mr. W. S. 
Williams, the professional "reader'' of the 
firm. He had taken the pains to examine 
the story, and had the sense and taste to 
discern the merits of it. It was, in his 
opinion, the work of a person of so much 
more than mediocre talent that he put him- 
self to the further trouble of writing to 
" Currer Bell" that, while The Professor 
was not available for the present use of the 
house, a three-volume novel from the same 
pen might be. Jane Eyre went to London 

iqo Charlotte Bronte at Home 

August 24th, and was accepted as soon as 
it was read, the second reader to whom the 
first passed it, sitting up all night to finish it. 

In our day of careful typography, triple 
proof-readings, and elaborate illustration, 
we catch our breaths in reading that the 
three- volume novel was "out" in less 
than a month from the date of acceptance. 
Jane Eyre saw the light, October 16, 1847. 

By the opening of the New Year, the 
public and the critics of both hemispheres 
were speculating as to the personality of 
" Currer Bell," and the novel was the 
" rage " of the literary season. 

" 1 hardly expected that a book by an 
unknown author could find readers," was 
Charlotte's modest comment upon her 
triumph when time had made her reputa- 
tion sure. 

The tremendous venture was known be- 
forehand to nobody except Emily and 
Anne. The former had sent the MS. of 
Wuthering Heights to a different firm, by 
whom it was accepted, but without enthu- 
siasm, and published tardily. Anne com- 
mitted Agnes Grey to the same house with 
a like result. Ellen Nussey heard nothing, 
in that August visit, of any of the three 

Success of ' ' Jane Eyre " i Q i 

books. Each sister had bound herself sol- 
emnly to the others not to divulge her 
secret without the full concurrence of all 
three. The decided aversion to speaking 
freely of one's brain-children, especially 
when in embryo, natural to authors of fine 
sensibilities and true reverence for the gift 
that is in them, was almost excessive with 
the Brontes — Branwell always excepted. 
Even after years of popular favour had 
taught Charlotte to hearken to discussions 
of characters, situations, and style without 
painful embarrassment, it was evident to 
her best friends that the subject was deli- 
cate and sacred in her esteem. It would 
have cost her a hard struggle to take even 
trusty and dear Ellen into her confidence 
had she been sanguine of success. The 
sharp disappointment attendant upon the 
former experiment, the recollection of 
the fragile lily that had perished with the 
blooming, would have closed' the lips of 
the three most nearly interested in risk and 
failure had other reasons for reticence been 

It was, then, with a strange commingling 
of emotions — delicacy, distrust, and exult- 
ation — that Charlotte carried a copy oi Jane 

192 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Eyre, with a batch of press-notices, into 
her father's study one afternoon, and, ap- 
proaching his chair, said, as diffidently as 
in the days when he set for her the tasli of 
an abstract or a composition: " Papa ! I 've 
been writing a book." 

When he feared her minute handwriting 
"might try his eyes," if he undertoolc to 
read it, she informed him that it was printed. 
At his ejaculation of dismay over the cer- 
tain expense and probable failure of an ob- 
scure writer, she offered to read some of 
the reviews aloud, and having allayed his 
apprehensions somewhat, left book and 
papers in his hands and slipped away as 
noiselessly as the shadows to which she 
was often hkened. 

Everybody has heard of his sentence of 
guarded praise, uttered in grim satisfaction 
fully comprehended by the triad assembled 
in the parlour at tea-time, fearful of, yet 
impatient for, his entrance. 

" Girls ! do you know Charlotte has been 
writing a book, and it is much better than 
likely ? " 

Standing in the parlour, last year, I re- 
produced to myself, and vividly, the scene, 
■ — the plainly laid table, Emily behind the 

Success of "Jane Eyre " 193 

tea-tray ; Charlotte seated opposite to Anne, 
both pale and nervous with suspense, and 
the tall, gaunt figure of the father, pausing 
beside the vacant chair at the foot of the 
board to enunciate the pregnant phrase, a 
benevolent twinkle in his eyes, a smile he 
could not suppress hovering about his 
mobile mouth. 

Then, doubtless, the tea was poured 
and drunk, the bread-and-butter passed, 
and parish news touched upon, as if no- 
thing uncommon had happened, as if literary 
circles were not commoved by the appari- 
tion of the new star, and every English and 
American review were not conjecturing, 
surmising, and affirming as to Jane Eyre's 
creator, whether masculine or feminine. 
Northerner or Southron, delineator or ro- 
mancist, and Smith & Elder's mails were 
not swollen by letters addressed to the 
mysterious " Currer Bell." 

It was impossible that she, being human, 
should not have derived profound gratifica- 
tion and solemn content from the reward of 
the travail of her soul and mind. Elated 
she was not, then or ever. The side of 
the dual existence she was henceforward to 
lead with which we have most to do was 

194 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

ballasted by too great and grievous sorrows 
not to keep within its deeply worn grooves. 

Mrs. Gaskell tells us that Charlotte's first 
thought, when assured of considerable (for 
her) pecuniary gains from the successful 
book, was of the "little sister," drooping 
from too sedentary a life, and bowed to 
the dust in spirit by the knowledge and 
sight of Branwell's excesses. As soon as 
the spring opened, Anne must have change 
of air at the seashore or elsewhere, 
strengthening food, such as they could now 
afford to buy, and the recreations she had 
missed in her shadowed childhood and 

But for the inward brightness shed by 
these hopes, and the intellectual enjoyment 
of boxes of books forwarded by her pub- 
lishers, and by her correspondence with 
Mr. Williams, the routine of home and 
parish duties was as uneventful and colour- 
less as ever. 

Untiljune ! Then, a letter from Charlotte's 
publishers broke like a bomb-shell into the 
little group of student authors. Smith, 
Elder & Co. had heard, through their Amer- 
ican correspondence, that arrangements 
had been made by a London house for the 

Hurried Trip to London 195 

reprint in the United States of a new bool< 
by the author of Jane Eyre. Upon investi- 
gation it transpired that the work in ques- 
tion — Wuthering Heights — together with 
Agnes Grey and " Acton Bell's " new novel, 
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, now in press — 
was believed by the trade to be from the 
pen of one and the same author, his iden- 
tity being veiled under three noms deplume, 
Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. 

In the singleness of their integrity the 
sisters looked upon the assertion as a slur 
upon their veracity and honesty. We 
smile at, while respecting, the method — to 
their way of thinking the only way of 
clearing themselves — chosen and instantly 
acted upon by the unsophisticated parties 
under suspicion. Charlotte and Anne set 
out for London on the afternoon of the day 
that brought the agitating letter. Their 
trunk was sent a little after noon by a car- 
rier's cart to Keighley, the nearest railway 
station. Dressed for the eventful journey, 
Charlotte and Anne sat down to an early 
tea, eating little, as we may imagine, and 
then began the four-mile walk in good 
season to catch the night train. A heavy 
shower wet them to the skin on the road. 

196 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

but they pressed on. Defamation of char- 
acter was too serious a peril for them to 
mindtrifleswhenbentuponself-justifi cation. 

They went straight from the Chapter 
Coffee-house (where, odd as it may seem, 
they elected to lodge because their father 
used to put up there as a young man) to 
Smith & Elder's Cornhill office, amazing the 
senior partner by presenting the letter he had 
sent to " Currer Bell." Up to now he and 
Mr. Williams had written to their author 
as a man. The publisher turned it over in 
his hand, and looked bewildered from his 
own handwriting to the quaint little women 
standing side by side at the full height of 
their small stature. 

"Where did you get this?" he asked, 
naturally. Charlotte was spokeswoman, 
introducing herself as "Currer Bell," her 
companion as "Acton." In his delight at 
the solution of more than one vexed ques- 
tion, Mr. Smith would have called together 
a coterie of literary people at his house to 
meet the unmasked celebrities, but the 
visitors would not consent. They would 
retain their incognita to everybody in Lon- 
don but himself and his partners. After 
an hour's chat they trudged back to their 

Hurried Trip to London 1Q7 

quaint quarters, never noticing that they 
were the only women in the house, and 
Charlotte went to bed with a violent sick 
headache, the penalty she usually paid for 
any unwonted excitement. 

Mr. Smith so far prevailed over their shy- 
ness as to induce them to accompany him 
and his mother to the Opera that night, 
where, as Charlotte wrote to Ellen, "fine 
ladies and gentlemen glanced at us with a 
slight, graceful superciliousness, quite war- 
ranted by the circumstances. Still I felt 
pleasurably excited, in spite of headache, 
sickness, and conscious clownishness, and 
1 saw Anne was calm and gentle, which 
she always is." 

The "circumstances" were the plain 
black silk gowns, long-sleeved and high- 
necked, made in obsolete fashion by a 
Haworth dressmaker, and the general air 
of rusticity that clung to the novices in the 
gay scene. Charlotte admits the evident 
provocation of the " graceful supercilious- 
ness " without a tinge of false shame. She 
always rated herself — person and mind — far 
below the standard set for her by others. 

The country girls went to church on 
Sunday, and afterwards to dine with the 

198 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

hospitable Smiths; on Monday, under their 
pilotage, to the Royal Academy and the 
National Gallery; to dinner again at the 
Smiths', and to tea at Mr. Williams's. 

On Tuesday night they were safe at 
home, wearied out, dazed, and tremulous 
under the burden of novel experience. "My 
face looking grey and very old/' says Char- 
lotte, "with strange, deep lines ploughed 
in it. My eyes stared unnaturally. I was 
weak, and yet restless. " 

Anne suffered less from the effects of 
this her first sight of London. Both were 
content in having accomplished the aim and 
end of the startling adventure. They had 
proved to the skeptic the existence of two 
Bells, and he had accepted their testimony 
as to the existence of the third. Except 
to the publishers and their immediate fam- 
ilies, they were the "Misses Brown" from 
Yorkshire. "Shy and reserved little coun- 
trywomen, with not much to say," is Mrs. 
Gaskell's note upon the passing impression 
they made on such strangers as they chanced 
to encounter. 

Charlotte, as we have seen, "accepted 
the situation " with, apparently, no thought 
of the nations praising her near and afar off. 


branwell's death — Emily's illness and 
death a "dreary calm" 

THE events of the last quarter of the 
year 1848 will be told here, for the 
most part, by interweaving extracts from 
Charlotte's letters into a consecutive narra- 
tive. No hand but hers could have sketched 
them so graphically: 

"October 9, 1848. 
'' The past three weeks have been a dark interval in 
our humble home. Branwell's constitution had been 
tailing last all the summer, but still, neither the doctors 
nor himself thought him so near his end as he was. He 
was entirely confined to his bed but for one single day, 
and was in the village two days before his death. He 
died, after twenty minutes' struggle, on Sunday morn- 
ing, September 24. He was perfectly conscious 'till the 
last agony came on. His mind had undergone the pe- 
culiar change which frequently precedes death, two 
days previously ; the calm of better feelings filled it ; a 
return of natural affection marked his last moments. 


200 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" The remembrance of this strange change now com- 
forts my poor father greatly. I myself, with painful, 
mournful joy, heard him praying softly in his dying 
moments, and to the last prayer which my father offered 
up at his bedside, he added ' Amen ! ' How unusual 
that word appeared from his lips you cannot conceive. 
Akin to this alteration was that in his feelings towards 
his relations. All the bitterness seemed gone. 

" He is in God's hands now, and the All-Powerful is 
likewise the All-Merciful. A deep conviction that he 
rests at last — rests well after his brief, erring, suffering, 
feverish life — fills and quiets my mind. The final separa- 
tion, the spectacle of his pale corpse, gave me more 
acute, bitter pain than 1 could have imagined. Till the 
last hour comes, we never know how much we can 
forgive, pity, regret, a near relative. All his vices were, 
and are, nothing now ; we remember only his woes. 

" My poor father naturally thought more of his only 
son than of his daughters, and much and long as he had 
suffered on his account, he cried out for his loss like 
David for that of Absalom — ' My son ! my son ! ' and 
refused to be cotnforted. And then, when I ought to 
have been able to collect my strength and be at hand to 
support him, I fell ill with an illness whose approaches I 
had felt for some time previously, and of which the crisis 
was hastened by the care and trouble of the death scene 
— the first I had ever witnessed. 

" ' We have hurried our dead out of our sight.' A 
lull begins to succeed the tumult of last week. It is not 
permitted us to grieve for him who is gone as others 
grieve for those they lose. The removal of our only 
brother must necessarily be regarded by us rather in the 
light of a mercy than a chastisement. Branwell was his 
father's and his sisters' pride and hope in boyhood, but 

Branwell's Death 201 

since manhood the case has been otherwise. It has 
been our lot to see him take a wrong bent ; to hope, 
expect, wait his return to the right path ; to know the 
sickness of hope deferred, the dismay of prayer baffled ; 
to experience despair at last, — and now to behold the 
sudden, early, obscure close of what might have been a 
noble career. Nothing remains of him but a memory of 
errors and sufferings. 

"My unhappy brother never knew what his sisters 
had done in literature. He was not aware that they 
had ever published a line. We could not tell him of 
our efforts for fear of causing him too deep a pang of 
remorse for his own time misspent and talents misap- 
plied. Now, he will never know. 1 cannot dwell 
longer on the subject at present. It is too painful." * 

To Miss Mary F. Robinson, the enthusi- 
astic biographer of Emily Bronte, we are 
indebted for other particulars of that last 
scene of a life that was a confused web of 
promise and pitiful failure, of folly, and of 
tragedy : 

" He insisted upon getting up. If he had succumbed 
to the horrors of life he would defy the horrors of ex- 
tinction. He would die as he thought no one had ever 
died before, — standing. So, like some ancient Celtic 
hero, when the last agony began, he rose to his feet. 
Hushed and awe-stricken, the old father, praying Anne, 
and loving Emily, looked on. He rose to his feet and 
died erect, after twenty minutes' struggle." 

Charlotte fondly imagined that the suc- 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 139. 

202 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

cesses they had been at such pains to hide 
from him — lest the contrast with the ruin 
he had made of his own talents and oppor- 
tunities might add a barb to the remorse 
she credited him with feeling — never came 
to his knowledge. His friend and memori- 
alist, Mr. Grundy, reports Branwell as 
boasting to his boon companions, over their 
cups, that he had written Wuthering 
Heights, entire or in part, and from an- 
other source we have a picture of the brag- 
gart, seated in his three-cornered chair in 
the parlour of the Black Bull, discours- 
ing in tipsy seriousness upon his sisters' 
achievements and the comparative merits 
of the three books they had published. 

How much of this dishonouring story 
is true and how much the work of his 
friends, (!) imaginations, when there was no 
longer any one alive who could contradict 
their statements, is not for us to decide. 
We know the wretched boy to have been 
a boastful liar where other women's charac- 
ters were concerned. He was not superior 
to the meanness of traducing his own 
flesh and blood, had the opportunity been 
afforded him. We can only hope, in 
mercy to his memory, that it was not. 

Emily's Illness 203 

Dismiss we the unspeakably sad and 
terrible story of the Castaway, in Charlotte's 
words : 

" In God's hands we leave him ; He sees 
not as man sees." 

It is an old saying in Yorkshire, as in 
other parts of England, that when Death 
enters a house he has not visited in a long 
time, he leaves the door ajar in going out 
with his burden. More than twenty years 
had passed since the pavement of the Ha- 
worth Church was disturbed to lay the 
body of Elizabeth Bronte by her mother 
and her sister Maria. Looking backward, 
a shadow falls for us across the page on 
which Charlotte wrote a week after Bran- 
well's burial : 

"Anne is always delicate, and Emily has 
a cough and cold at present." 

The shadow lowers above another entry, 
dated October 29th : 

" I feel much more uneasy about my sister than my- 
self just now. Emily's cold and cough are veiy obsti- 
nate. 1 fear she has pain in her chest, and I sometimes 
catch a shortness in her breathing, when she has moved 
at all quickly. She looks very thin and pale. Her re- 
served nature occasions me great uneasiness of mind. It 
is useless to question her ; you get no answers. It is 

204 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

still more useless to recommend remedies. They are 
never adopted." 

Yet more ominous is the bulletin of 
November 23d : 

' ' 1 told you Emily was ill in my last letter. She is 
very ill. I believe, if you were to see her, your impres- 
sion would be that there is no hope. A more hollow, 
wasted, pallid aspect I have not beheld. The deep, 
tight cough continues ; the breathing, after the least ex- 
ertion, is a rapid pant ; and these symptoms are accom- 
panied by pains in the chest and side. Her pulse, the 
only time she allowed it to be felt, was found to beat 
1 1 5 per minute. In this state she resolutely refuses to 
see a doctor. She will give no explanation of her feel- 
ings; — she will scarcely allow her feelings to be alluded 
to. Our position is, and has been for some weeks, ex- 
quisitely painful. God only knows how all this is to 
terminate. I think Emily seems the nearest thing to my 
heart in the world. 

" December loth. 

" Hope and fear fluctuate daily. The pain in her 
side and chest is better ; the cough, the shortness of 
breath, the extreme emaciation, continue. As her re- 
pugnance to see a medical man continues immutable — as 
she declares no ' poisoning doctor ' shall come near 
her, — 1 have written, unknown to her, to an eminent 
physician in London, giving as minute a statement of 
her case and symptoms as 1 could draw up, and request- 
ing an opinion. . The crab-cheese arrived safely. 
Emily has just reminded me to thank you for it. It 
looks very nice. I wish she were well enough to 
eat it ! " 

Emily's Illness 205 

Emily had not passed the threshold 
of the Parsonage since she followed her 
brother's coffin through the dreadful little 
door in the wall of the churchward front 
yard, and down the paved walk into the 
church, where the funeral service was read. 
Charlotte and Anne had never been robust ; 
Emily had laughed to scorn the thought of 
physical ailment to her own lithe, active 
self. She " never minded weather." Wet 
feet, even a drenching to the skin from a 
winter storm or a thunder-cloud, were bag- 
atelles. A year before, Anne had written 
to Ellen Nussey that, while she and Char- 
lotte had suffered much from the prevalent 
east wind, "Emily considers it a very un- 
interesting wind, but it does not affect her 
nervous system." In fact, she denied the 
existence of a nervous system in her own 

On the morning of December 19th she 
lay in bed later than usual, and Charlotte 
made an excuse for a visit of anxious in- 
quiry — or, rather, inspection, for she dared 
not ask a question — by taking in to her 
sister a bit of heather she had been out 
upon the moors to seek. She had actually 
found a spray in bloom in a sheltered nook, 

2o6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and displayed it proudly, laying it upon 
Emily's pillow. Although the cool touch 
of the pale purple flowers upon her cheek 
caused the invalid to lift her languid eyelids, 
she took no notice of them. The lids 
drooped heavily over the dim eyes, and 
Charlotte left her, sick of soul and dread- 
ing the worst, to make her despairing re- 
port to Anne in the parlour. Presently 
they heard a faint movement in the cham- 
ber overhead. Emily was up and, as was 
her habit, resolutely dressing herself. She 
sat by the fire, slowly combing her weight 
of chestnut-brown hair, when the comb 
caught in the rich masses and fell into the 
grate. In the extremity of weakness Emily 
lay back in her chair, panting for breath, 
and unable to stoop over to recover the 
comb. Martha, Tabby's young assistant, 
was attracted from the hall by the smell of 
burning bone, and Emily appealed to her 
with a half-laugh, — "My comb is down 
there ! I am too weak to pick it up ! " 

Finishing her toilet by slow and painful 
stages, she wrapped a shawl about her, 
and holding by the wall to steady her steps, 
began the descent to the lower floor. Down 
the crooked stairway, past the well where 

Emily's Illness 207 

her strong young arms had held down and 
"punished " poor Keeper — ^still her devoted 
thrall — she staggered, over the cruelly cold 
flags of the hall, to the parlour door. Anne 
sat by the hearth, her mending basket be- 
side her. Charlotte was writing at the 
table in the middle of the room. Both 
looked up, but neither ventured to speak 
while Emily tottered across the floor to the 
hard, straight sofa, and sat down, fitted 
her thimble to her clammy finger, and took 
up a piece of plain sewing. 

The scratching of Charlotte's pen filled 
up the brief pauses between the labouring 
breaths, each of which was a needle-thrust 
in the hearts of the listeners. 

This was what Charlotte was saying to 
Ellen : 

"I should have written to you before, if I had had 
one word of hope to say, but I have not. She grows 
daily weaker. The physician's opinion was expressed 
too obscurely to be of use. He sent some medicine 
which she would not take. Moments so dark as these 
1 have never known. I pray for God's support to us all. 
Hitherto He has granted it. 

" I hope still, for 1 must hope. She is as dear to me 
as life. If 1 let the faintness of despair reach my heart 1 
shall become worthless. The attack was, 1 believe, in 
the first place, inflammation of the lungs. It ought to 
have been met promptly in time." 

2o8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

The ungenial winter noon saw the aban- 
donment of the poor effort at industry. 
Emily put aside her work, and lay down 
upon the sofa. 

At her husky whisper Charlotte hastened 
to her. 

' ' If you — will— send for a — doctor now, 
I will — see — him ! " 

Before he could arrive, the last throes 
were upon her. She grappled with Death 
as if she were lookmg into his face, fought 
breath by breath to wrest her life from his 
clutch. Her sisters begged her, with tears, 
to let them get her to bed. Raising herself 
upon one hand, she motioned them away 
with the other. 

"No ! no !" 

Voice, breath, and heart-beat went with 
the protest. She dropped back upon the 
sofa, dead — and free ! 

In six days more, Charlotte sent another 
letter to her one confidante : 

" Emily suffers no more from pain or weakness now. 
She never will suffer more in this world. She is gone, 
after a short, hard conflict. She died on Tuesday, the 
very day 1 wrote to you. 1 thought it very possible she 
might be with us still for weeks, and a few hours after- 
wards she was in Eternity. 

" Yes ! there is no Emily in time or on earth now. 

Emily's Death 209 

Yesterday we put her poor wasted mortal frame quietly 
under the church pavement. We are very calm at 
present. Why should we be otherwise ? The anguish 
of seeing her suffer is over ; the spectacle of the pains of 
death is gone by ; the funeral day is past. We feel she 
is at peace. No need now to tremble for the hard frost 
and the keen wind. Emily does not feel them. She 
died in a time of promise. We saw her taken from life 
in its prime. But it is God's will, and the place where 
she is gone is better than that she has left. 

"God has sustained me in a way that 1 marvel at, 
through such agony as I had not conceived."* 

" Day by day," — she wrote three years afterwards, — 
"when 1 saw with what a front she met suffering, 1 
looked on her with an anguish of wonder and love. I 
have seen nothing like it, but, indeed, 1 have never 
seen her parallel in anything. Stronger than a man, 
simpler than a child, her nature stood alone. The aw- 
ful point was, that, while full of ruth for others, on her- 
self she had no pity ; the spirit was inexorable to the 
flesh ; from the trembling hand, the unnerved limbs, the 
fading eyes, the same service was exacted as they had 
rendered in health." 

Mrs. Gaskell narrates how Keeper, Em- 
ily's bulldog ("Tartar") joined the three 
mourners who walked close behind the 
coffin as it left the house, followed them 
into the church, and returned home with 
them when the service was over. Going 
directly up-stairs, he stretched his large bulk 

* Mrs. Gaskell. 

210 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

across the threshold of his dead mistress's 
door, and howled mournfully for hours. 
He visited the place every day for weeks, 
in evident expectation that the door would 
open and Emily answer his call. "He 
never recovered his cheerfulness," says 

The Christmas of 1848 was a period of 
"dreary calm in the midst of which" the 
human mourners " sought resignation." 

" My father and my sister Anne are far from well. 
As for me, God has hitherto most graciously sustained 
me. I am not ill ; I can get through daily duties, and 
do something towards keeping hope and energy alive in 
our mourning household. My father says to me almost 
hourly, — " Charlotte, you must bear up ! 1 shall sink if 
you fail me.' These words, you can conceive, are a 
stimulus to nature. The sight, too, of my sister Anne's 
very still, but deep sorrow wakens in me such fear for 
her that I cannot falter. Somebody must cheer the rest. 

" So 1 will not now ask why Emily was torn from us 
in the fulness of our attachment ; why her existence now 
lies like a field of green corn trodden down — like a tree 
in full bearing struck at the root. 1 will only say, 
sweet is rest after labour, and calm after tempest, and 
repeat again and again that Emily knows that now."* 

The first keen anguish of mourning for 
the lost darling had hardly subsided into 
the slow torture of missing her, every hour 
* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 1 75. 

A " Dreary Calm " 211 

and minute of lives that must evermore 
move on without her, when the awful 
Shade halted for the third time before the 
door he had left ajar. 




SCARBORO' — charlotte's RETURN HOME 


AGAIN we will let Charlotte's letters 
take up the sad story: 

" January lo, 1849, 
" Atjne had a very tolerable day yesterday, and a 
pretty quiet night, though she did not sleep much. 1 
have just dressed the blister, and she is risen and come 
down-stairs. She looks somewhat pale and sickjy. 
She has had one dose of the cod-liver oil. 

" 1 am trying to hope, but the day is windy, cloudy, 
and stormy. My spirits fall, at intervals, very low. 
Then 1 look where you counsel me to look, — beyond 
earthly tempests and sorrows. In the night I awake 
and long for morning. Then my heart is wrung ! 

" January 15. 
" I can scarcely say that Anne is worse, nor can I 
say she is better. Her cough is most troublesoine at 

Anne's Decline 213 

night, but rarely violent. She is too precious not to be 
cherished with all the fostering strength I have. 

" The days pass in a slow dark march. The nights 
are the test, — the sudden wakings from restless sleep, 
the revived knowledge that one is in her grave, and an- 
other, not at my side, but in a separate and a sick bed. 
However, God is over all. 

" February nth. 

"Anne continues very much in the same state. I 
tremble at the thought of any change to cold wind or 
frost. Would that March were well over ! Her mind 
seems generally serene, and her sufferings are, hitherto, 
nothing like Emily's. The thought of what is to come 
grows more familiar to my mind, but it is a sad, dreary 

In March, Ellen Nussey urged affection- 
ately that she might be allowed to accom- 
pany Anne to the milder seacoast as soon 
as the weather grew mild enough for the 
invalid's removal. One of the few of Anne 
Bronte's letters that remain to us was 
written in acknowledgment of this friendly 
offer. After thanking Miss Nussey for her 
kindness and accepting the proposal, — 
should she be able to try change of air, — 
she goes on to speak frankly of the chances 
of her recovery, weighing them with a 
calm, collected spirit that enhances our re- 
spect for the sweet youngling of the sadly 
diminished flock. 

214 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" I have no horror of death. If 1 thought it inevitable 
I thinJc I could quietly resign myself to the prospect, in 
the hope that you, dear iVliss Ellen, would give as much 
of your company as you possibly could to Charlotte, and 
be a sister to her in my stead. 

" But 1 wish it would please God to spare me, not 
only for Papa's and Charlotte's sakes, but because 1 long 
to do some good in the world before I leave it. 1 have 
many schemes in my head for future practice — humble 
and limited, indeed — still 1 should not like them all to 
come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little 
purpose. But God's will be done ! " * 

Charlotte and Ellen took her to Scarboro' 
on May 24th. She died there, quietly, on 
the 28th. Her last words were : "Take 
courage, Charlotte ! take courage 1 " 

She was buried at Scarboro', Charlotte 
and Ellen being the only mourners present. 

To her London friend, Mr. Williams, 
Charlotte wrote on June 25th : 

" I am now again at home, where I returned last 
Thursday. 1 call it home still, much as London would 
be called London, if an earthquake should shake its 
streets to ruins. 

" But let me not be ungrateful ! Haworth Parsonage 
is still a home for me, and not quite a ruined or desolate 
home either. Papa is here, and two most affectionate 
and faithful servants, and two old dogs, in their way as 
faithful and affectionate. The ecstasy of these poor 
animals, when 1 came in, was something singular. I am 
* Mrs. Gaskell, 

"Shirley" 215 

certain they thought that, as I was returned, my sisters 
were not far behind. But here my sisters will come no 
more. Keeper may visit Emily's little bed-room — as he 
still does, day by day — and Flossy may look wistfully 
around for Anne. They will never see them again — nor 
shall 1 — at least the human part of me. 

" Waking, I think, sleeping, 1 dream of them ; and 1 
cannot recall them as they were in health. Still they 
appear to me in sickness and suffering. 

" All this bitterness must be tasted. The pain must 
be undergone. Its poignancy, 1 trust, will be blunted 
one day. Ellen would have come back with me, but 1 
would not let her. I knew it would be better to face 
the desolation at once — later or sooner, the sharp pang 
must be experienced. 

" Labour must be the cure — not sympathy. Labour 
is the only radical cure for rooted sorrow. The society 
of a calm, serenely cheerful companion — such as Ellen — 
soothes pain like a soft opiate ; but 1 find it does not 
probe, or heal, the wound. Sharper, more severe means 
are necessary to make a remedy." 

In this persuasion the brave soul gathered 
up its forces to obey its own prescription. 
Shirley was more than half finished at the 
time Branwell died. She had not touched 
the MS. since. The last chapters she had 
written were read aloud to Emily and 
Anne, and the future plan of the book was 
discussed by the three, while pacing the 
floor in the firelight after ten o'clock at 

2i6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

The least sentimental reader must shud- 
der, as at a touch upon a raw surface — or 
the naked heart — in thinking what the re- 
opening of desk and portfolio must have 
been to the desolate mourner in the more 
than ever quiet house, in reviewing the 
scenes after writing and reading which she 
had laid aside her pen. The last chapter 
read aloud to her audience of two was the 
twenty-third — "An Evening Out." Anne's 
gentle praises, and Emily's trenchant, but 
never unkindly, criticisms, must have anno- 
tated each paragraph for her. The heading 
of the new chapter, not one line of which 
either of her sisters was ever to hear, was 
— fitly enough — ■' ' The Valley of the Shadow 
of Death." 

The opening passage is too long to be 
transcribed here. He who peruses it in the 
recollection of the conditions under which 
it was penned can discern the trail of life- 
blood in every line. We trace the same in 
other portions of this twenty-fourth chap- 
ter. It is as if the writer had not yet taken 
firm hold of her pen, the wand that opened 
for her the gates to the Wonderland of 
Imagination, wherein she was to find tem- 
porary surcease of pain. Humanly speak- 

"Shirley" 217 

ing, Shirley was her salvation. She 
wrought indefatigably upon it all through 
the August days, forcing herself to think 
of her Other World and the characters with 
which she had peopled it, when the song 
of the lark floated in at her windows in the 
dewy mornings ; as she opened her eyes 
upon the square bulk of the church-tower 
opposite her window, black against the 
flushing sky ; when the blossoming heather 
covered "Emily's moors" as with cool 
purple mist, and plover and lapwing sang 
and whistled in thickets of gorse and bil- 
berry. Ellen Nussey entreated that she 
might come to Haworth, and share, if she 
could not enliven, her friend's solitude. 
Charlotte would not consent while the un- 
finished MS. lay in her desk. "This one 
thing I do " was the rule to which she held 
herself without complaint or wavering. 
She was straitened with the divine com- 
pulsion of true genius until it was accom- 

Not until strait and stress were over did 
she speak, even to Ellen, of the desolation 
of the evenings when, by the force of 
habit, she put up paper and pen at the 
stroke of ten, and began pacing the floor 

2i8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

in the old way that used to be sweet, the 
soft fall of her steps accentuating the still- 
ness that had settled with nightfall in every 
room. When the wind shook the shrubs 
under the windows she was thrilled by the 
fancy of the sweeping garments of viewless 
visitants stealing up the path to look in 
upon her loneliness. The cry of an August 
gale at the closed sashes on one wild, wet 
night sounded to her like the voices of her 
sisters, wandering round and round the 
house, calling inarticulately upon her. 

Insomnia and close application to her 
desk brought on a severe but short attack 
of illness, just as the last page was written. 

" It is gone now," she told Ellen Nussey, 
thankfully, September loth. " It is the first 
from which I have suffered since my return 
from the seaside." 

Upon the same page she makes modest 
mention of the completed task: 

"My piece of work is at last finished, 
and dispatched to its destination. You 
must now tell me when there is a chance 
of your being able to come here." 

Before the visit could be paid, there was 
a minor domestic catastrophe at Haworth. 
Tabby had a serious fall, just when the 

"Shirley" 219 

younger servant was ill in bed. Every 
liousekeeper, even if she be not a literary 
worker, will appreciate the sketch Char- 
lotte sent off to Ellen of the general collapse 
of her working forces, physical, mental, 
and moral : 

" I fairly broke down for ten minutes — sat and cried 
like a fool. Tabby could neither stand nor walk. Papa 
had just been declaring that Martha was in imminent 
danger, 1 was myself depressed with headache and 
sickness. That day I hardly knew what to do, or 
where to turn. 

" Thank God ! Martha is now convalescent. Tabby, 
1 trust, will be better soon. Papa is pretty well. 1 
have the satisfaction of knowing that my publishers are 
delighted with what 1 sent them. This supports me. 
But life is a battle. May we all be enabled to fight it 
well ! " 

Shirley, as every one at all conversant 
with modern belles lettres knows, was a 
superb triumph, and the fidelity of the au- 
thor's pictures of Yorkshire scenes and 
people in a very brief time "ran her to 
earth," in sporting phrase. By degrees the 
incognita was abandoned. Complimentary 
letters rained in upon her from all quarters. 
The Smiths induced her to visit them in 
London, where she met Thackeray, Miss 
Martineau, and a host of lesser literary 

220 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

lights. She told Mary Taylor, in after-days, 
that her solitary life had disqualified her 
for society. " I had become unready, nerv- 
ous, irritable, excitable, and either incapa- 
ble of speech, or I talked rapidly. For 
swarms of people I don't care ! " 

We have, however, a more pleasing in- 
stance of her manner of acquitting herself 
in her new sphere from an eye-witness 
of her first meeting with Miss Martineau. 
The latter was lodging in London, and 
" Currer Bell " was invited to take afternoon 
tea with her. 

" Miss Bronte was announced, and in came a young 
looking lady, almost childlike in stature, in a deep 
mourning dress, neat as a Quaker's, with her beautiful 
hair smooth and brown, her fine eyes blazing with 
meaning, and her sensible face indicating a habit of 
self-control. She came — hesitated a moment at finding 
four or five people assembled, — then, went straight to 
Miss Martineau with intuitive recognition, and with the 
freemasonry of good feeling and gentle breeding, she 
soon became as one of the family seated around the 

The delight evinced by her Yorkshire 
neighbours in the discovery that, as Martha 
told her young mistress, " Miss Bronte had 
been and written two books — the grandest 
books that ever was seen ! " touched the 

"Shirley" 221 

Parson's daughter more nearly than the 
plaudits of editorial critics. There is a sus- 
picion of tears in the jesting tone in which 
she informs Ellen that "the Haworth peo- 
ple have been making great fools of them- 
selves about Shirley." 

She "valued," too, "more than testi- 
monies from higher sources, a scrap of 
paper which came into her hands without 
the knowledge of the writer — a poor work- 
ing man of this village, a Dissenter. The 
document is a sort of record of his feelings 
after reading y^we Eyre." 

" On one point do 1 feel vulnerable,'' she says to her 
publishers at the height of her fame. " I should grieve 
to see my father's peace of mind perturbed on my ac- 
count ; for which reason 1 keep my author's existence 
as much as possible out of his way. 1 have always 
given him a carefully diluted and modified account of 
the success of Jane Eyre, — ^just what would please with- 
out startling him. The book is not mentioned between 
us once a month." 

Another visit to London was made in 
1850. There she had a glimpse of the 
Duke of Wellington; a morning in the 
gallery of the House of Commons; an in- 
terview with one of her most prominent 
critics, George Henry Lewes (afterwards 
the husband of "George Eliot ") ; calls from 

222 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

titled admirers and learned dignitaries, — 
and "last, not least, an interview with Mr. 
Thackeray, who made a morning call, and 
sat two hours." The London experience 
was followed by a trip to Scotland, includ- 
ing a stay of a few days in Edinboro'. 

"My dear sir," she is moved to tell her 
publisher, "do not think I blaspheme when 
I tell you that your great London, as com- 
pared to Dun-Edin, is as prose compared 
to poetry, or as a great, rumbling, rambling, 
heavy epic compared to a lyric, brief, 
bright, clear, and vital as a flash of light- 

In September she was the guest of Sir 
James and Lady Kay Shuttleworth at their 
country-seat near Windermere in the Lake 
Country, and there was introduced to her 
future friend and biographer, Mrs. Gaskell. 
To this lady, more than to all other of 
Charlotte's delineators, we owe our definite 
impressions of Miss Bronte's personelle. 

"She is (as she calls herself) undeveloped, thin, and 
more than half a head shorter than I am," Mrs. Gaskell 
wrote while under the same roof with the famous author. 
"She has soft, brown hair, not very dark ; eyes, very 
good and expressive, looking straight and open at you, 
of the same colour as her hair ; a large mouth ; the fore- 
head square, broad, and rather overhanging. She has a 

" Wuthering Heights " 22^ 

very sweet voice ; rather hesitates in choosing her ex- 
pressions, but when chosen they seem without an effort 
admirable, and just befitting the occasion. There is 
nothing overstrained, but perfectly simple.'' 

From the home-nest at Haworth, always 
resought gratefully after the dazzling epi- 
sodes we have enumerated, we have a few 
lines introductory to a letter to a literary 
friend, that "indicate" with true artistic 
skill what her life was at this time (1850) : 

' ' Papa and 1 have just had tea ; he is sitting quietly 
in his room, and I in mine ; storms of rain are sweeping 
over the garden and church-yard ; as to the moors, they 
are hidden in deep fog. Though alone, 1 am not un- 
happy. 1 have a thousand things to be thankful for, and 
amongst the rest that this morning I received a letter 
from you, and that this evening 1 have the privilege of 
answering it." 

In the same September she began, at Mr. 
Smith's request, the "sacred duty" of 
editing new editions of Wuthering Heights 
and Agnes Grey. 

It was reserved for a later generation of 
reviewers, represented by Swinburne, Do- 
bell, and Matthew Arnold, to do justice to 
the genius that produced Wuthering Heights. 

Charlotte was as nearly resentful as it 
was in her nature to be, that Emily went 
down to her grave before one note of the 

224 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

chorus of praise now chanted in her honour 
reached her ears. Strange as it may appear 
to us, Agnes Grey, a third-rate, colourless 
story of governess life, fared better with 
public and critics than Emily's masterly 
work. We wish, almost passionately, that 
the surviving sister who strove, while she 
lived, to win for the dead the honest meed 
of appreciation, had foreknown the place 
to be assigned her in forty years' time ; 
that one of the greatest of nineteenth-cen- 
tury poets would declare that Emily Bronte's 

" Knew no fellow for might, 
Passion, vehemence, grief, 
Daring, since Byron died." 

The performance of the " sacred duty " 
cost the editor dear. "The reading over 
of papers, the renewal of remembrances, 
brought back the pang of bereavement and 
occasioned a depression of spirits well-nigh 

A timely and pressing invitation to Miss 
Martineau's was accepted in a sort of sad 
desperation as soon as the revised books 
were sent to the publishers. From Amble- 
side she wrote to Ellen Nussey of the 



Ellen Nussey 225 

"temporary relief, at least, by change of air and scene, 
from the heavy burden of depression which, I confess, 
has for nearly three months been sinking me to the earth. 
1 shall never forget last autumn ! Some days and nights 
have been cruel ; but now, having once told you this, I 
need say no more on the subject. My loathing of soli- 
tude grew extreme ; my recollection of my sisters intol- 
erably poignant. I have truly enjoyed my visit 
here. 1 have seen a good many people, and all have 
been so marvellously kind ; not the least so the family 
of Dr. Arnold. Miss Martineau 1 relish inexpressibly." 

Nevertheless, when in the early spring of 
181^1 she had a return of what threatened 
" to crush her with a day-and-night-mare," 
she would not seek respite or cure from the 
like means. 

" It will not do to get into the habit of 
running away from home, and thus tem- 
porarily evading an oppression, instead of 
facing, wrestling with, and conquering it — 
or being conquered by it ! " 

The valiant creature would not be con- 
quered any more than she would "run 
away." She indulged herself, however, 
with a long visit from Ellen Nussey. 

" No new friend, however lofty or profound in intel- 
lect, not even Miss Martineau herself, could be to me 
what Ellen is ; yet she is no more than a conscientious, 
observant, calm, well-bred Yorkshire girl," she once 

226 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

told Mr. Williams. " She is good ; she is true ; she is 
faithful, and I love her. Just now 1 am enjoying the 
treat of her society, and she makes me indolent and 
negligent. I am too busy talking to her all day to do 
anything else." 

This sort of busy indolence was good for 
the morbid soul. The sore heart healed 
under the influence of such natural, whole- 
some companionship as other old school- 
fellows enjoy who have never drifted apart 
in place or interests, least of all, in heart and 




UPON one subject — newer by far than 
school-day experiences, and of more 
imminent importance than literary triumphs 
— Charlotte would not be questioned or 
bantered by her one intimate friend. 

In August, 1849, Smith & Elder had 
notified iVIiss Bronte of their wish to send 
a gentleman connected with their house to 
Haworth, to receive the valuable manu- 
script just completed — Shirley. Their 
agent, Mr. James Taylor, was Mr. W. S. 
Williams's colleague as reader and adviser 
for the firm. Charlotte, in reply, offered 
"the homely hospitalities of the Parson- 
age," warning the prospective guest that 


228 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

he would find "a strange, uncivilised little 
place," and that his entertainment would 
be dull, as she had no brother, and her 
father was too old to " walk on the moors 
with him, or to show him the neighbourT 
hood." Nothing daunted, Mr. Taylor came, 
found favour in Mr. Bronte's sight, and pro- 
ceeded, in a systematic, yet resolute, fashion, 
to pay his addresses to Mr. Bronte's daugh- 
ter. He had fared but indifferently well in a 
twelvemonth, when Charlotte admits to 
Ellen that "this little Taylor is deficient 
neither in spirit nor sense," after having 
assured her that "no matrimonial lot is 
even remotely offered me which seems to 
me truly desirable. The least allusion to 
such a thing is most offensive to Papa." 

In this springtime of 1851, just before 
Ellen came to Haworth, a passage made 
its way into one of Charlotte's letters that 
would have encouraged a more timid lover 
than the quietly persistent man of business, 
had he read it, or suspected the mood in 
which it was penned : 

"You may laugh as much and as wickedly as you 
please ; but the fact is, there is a quiet constancy about 
this, my diminutive and red-haired friend, which adds a 
foot to his stature, turns his sandy locks dark, and alto- 

Mr. Taylor 220 

gether dignifies him in my estimation. However, I am 
not bothered by much vehement ardour. There is the 
nicest distance and respect preserved now, which makes 
matters very comfortable." 

Perhaps if Mr. Taylor had been a shade 
less discreet and cool at this juncture of his 
wooing, and had pushed the advantage 
gained by his "quiet constancy," the re- 
sult would have been different, especially 
as Mr. Bronte liked him and enjoyed his 
visits. The news that he was about to 
quit England for India for an absence of 
several years had something to do with the 
sincere analysis of his character and the 
bias of her estimation in his behalf He 
had taken upon himself the selection of the 
books sent to Haworth regularly from 
Cornhill. The arrival of the box filled by 
his thoughtful kindness with food so con- 
venient for her mind that she could not 
but recognise their intellectual congeniality 
was the event of the week in her solitude, 
and kept the little man in hourly and grate- 
ful remembrance. 

In this favourable state of feeling she 
prepared for his farewell visit. I think 
neither Miss Nussey nor herself would have 
been surprised had he taken his leave as an 

230 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

accepted lover, with a long engagement 
ahead of him. Charlotte's account of the 
last interview is so characteristic of her sin- 
cere, sensitive nature, and so altogether 
womanly, that 1 transcribe it, with a smile 
of satisfaction : 

" Mr. Taylor has been and is gone. Things are just 
as they were. 

" He looks much thinner and older. I saw him very 
near, and once through my glass. The resemblance 
to Branwell struck me forcibly. It is marked. He is 
not ugly, but very peculiar. The lines in his face show 
an inflexibility and, I must add, a hardness of character 
which do not attract. As he stood near me ; as he 
looked at me in his keen way, it was all I could do to 
stand my ground tranquilly and steadily, and not to 
recoil as before. It is no use saying anything if I am 
not candid. I avow, then, that on this occasion, predis- 
posed as 1 was to regard him very favourably, his man- 
ner and his personal presence scarcely pleased me more 
than at the first interview. 

" An absence of five years — a dividing expanse of 
three oceans — the wide difference between a man's active 
career and a woman's passive existence — these things 
are almost equivalent to an eternal separation. But 
there is another thing which forms a ban-ier more diffi- 
cult to pass than any of these. Would Mr. Taylor and 
I ever suit? Could I ever feel for him enough love to 
accept him as a husband ? Friendship — gratitude — es- 
teem I have, but each moment he came near me, and 
that I could see his eyes fastened on me, my veins ran 
ice. Now that he is away, I feel far more gently toward 

Mr. Taylor 231 

him. It is only close by that 1 grow rigid — stiffening 
with a strange mixture of apprehension and anger, which 
nothing softens but his retreat and a perfect subduing of 
his manner." 

She understands herself and the cause of 
this " repulsion of spheres " more clearly by 
the time she writes again : 

" I am sure he has estimable and sterling qualities, 
but with every disposition, and with every wish, with 
every intention, even, to look on him in the most favour- 
able point of view at his last visit, it was impossible to 
me in my inward heart to think of him as one that 
might one day be acceptable as a husband. It would 
sound harsh were I to tell even you of the estimate 1 
felt compelled to form respecting him. 

" Dear Nell ! I looked for something of the gentleman 
— something, I mean, of the natural gentleman. You 
know 1 can dispense with acquired polish, and for looks, 
I know myself too well to think 1 have any right to be 
exacting on that point. 1 could not find one gleam — 
I could not see one passing glimpse of true good-breed- 
ing. It is hard to say, but it is true. In mind too, 
'though clever, he is second-rate — thoroughly second- 
rate. Were 1 to marry him my heart would bleed in 
pain and humiliation. I could not — could not look up 
to him ! 

" No ! if Mr. Taylor be the only husband fate offers to 
me, single I must always remain. But yet, at times, 1 
grieve for him, and perhaps it is superfluous, for I can- 
not think he will suffer much. A hard nature, occupa- 
tion, and change of scene will befriend him."* 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 3I7. 

232 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

As if putting away the subject of this 
and all other wooings, definitively and with 
reason, she closes the frank confidence 
with "1 am, dear Nell, your middle-aged 

In still another of this most interesting 
series of letters — unpublished until Mr. 
Shorter earned our undying gratitude by 
giving them publicity — Charlotte expresses 
surprise at her father's attitude towards her 
admirer. "The least allusion to such a 
thing is most offensive to Papa," she had 
said in a preceding epistle. Now, she re- 
lates that Mr. Bronte had exhorted the pro- 
spective traveller to be true to himself, his 
country, and God, 

' ' and wished him all good wishes. 

" Whenever he has alluded to him since, it has been 
with significant eulogy. When / hinted that he was no 
gentleman, he seemed out of patience with me for the 
objection. I believe he thinks a prospective union, de- 
ferred for five years, with such a decorous, reliable 
personage, would be a very proper and advisable affair." 

The two parties to the ill-fated love- 
affair never met again. Mr. Taylor resided 
in India until his death in 1874, paying 
several visits to his native land during this 

Mr. Taylor 233 

time. In 1863, when Chaiiotte Bronte 
had been eight years in her grave, he mar- 
ried a widow — it is said, not happily. 

Mrs. Gasl<ell pleases us by inserting a 
letter so filled with millinery gossip as to 
neutralise much she had already said of 
Charlotte's indifference to dress. She is 
going up to London "in the Season" — 
gayer this year than ever before because of 
the Great Exposition of 1851 — and is be- 
comingly and charmingly " exercised " over 
a black lace mantle which looked so rusty 
over her new black satin that she exchanged 
it for "a white mantle of the same price." 
She gives the price {;£i 14s. od.), and 
hopes Ellen will not call it "trumpery." 
Her heart misgives her that a bonnet bought 
in Leeds is "infinitely too gay with its pink 
lining." She withstood, on the same day 
that she bought the bonnet, some "beauti- 
ful silks of pale, sweet colours," and "went 
and bought a black silk after all." She 
can no more visit Brookroyd before she 
goes to London than she can fly, having 
quantities of sewing to do, as well as 
household matters to arrange. And among 
other commissions given to Ellen is one for 
"some chemisettes of small size (the full 

2 34 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

woman's size don't fit me) — both of simple 
style, and of good quality for best." 

She wore her best raiment a great deal 
while in London, attending an assembly of 
the "cream of London society" at AI- 
mack's, where Thackeray lectured and sin- 
gled her out for especial attention before and 
after the lecture ; where Lord Carlisle intro- 
duced himself to her as "a Yorkshireman," 
and was followed by Monckton Milnes "with 
the same plea," and where the "cream of 
society " formed into a double row of star- 
ing spectators to gape at the " celebrated 
authoress " when the lecture was over, and 
there was nothing for it but to run the 
gauntlet to the door, with as calm a grace 
as she could summon at such short notice. 

Charlotte sums up her experiences in the 
great mart in four lines : 

"What now chiefly dwells in my mem- 
ory are Mr. Thackeray's lectures. Mademoi- 
selle Rachel's acting, D'Aubigne's, Melville's, 
and Maurice's preaching, and the Crystal 

Visits were exchanged between herself 
and Mrs. Gaskell ; Mr. Williams continued 
to send her all the new books worth read- 
ing, and she wrote clear, crisp critiques of 

Mr. Taylor 235 

these, when she sent them back ; invita- 
tions and compliments rained into her lap 
with every post ; a visit from her old friend 
Miss Wooler refreshed her quondam pupil 
"like good wine" ; at the urgent solicita- 
tion of her publishers she began Vilhtte, 
rated by many reviewers as her strongest 
work — and autumn gloomed into the hard 
winter of 1851-52. Side by side with talk 
of great books she was reading, and the 
great book she was writing, is set this 
passage : 

" Poor old Keeper died last Monday moining, after 
being ill one night. He went gently to sleep. We laid 
his old faithful head in the garden. There was some- 
thing very sad in losing the old dog, yet 1 am glad he 
met a natural fate. People kept hinting he ought to be 
put away, which neither Papa nor I liked to think of." 

The wheels of Villette "drave heavily" 
for a while. 

" If my health is spared I shall get on with it as fast 
as is consistent with its being done, if not well, yet as 
well as I can do it. Not one whit faster ! When the 
mood leaves me (it has left me now, without vouch- 
safing so much as a word or a message when it will 
return) 1 put by the MS. and wait till it comes back 
again. God knows I sometimes have to wait long — very 
long, it seems to me. 

2}6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" However, I can but do my best, and then muffle 
my head in the mantle of Patience, and sit down at her 
feet and wait." 

When the moors were greening under 
warm April showers, and something akin 
to the glow of health warmed her veins, 
she confessed to a part of what she had 
endured in those darksome months : 

" 1 struggled through the winter, and the early part of 
the spring, often with great difficulty. My friend [Ellen 
Nussey] stayed with me a few days in the early part of 
January ; she could not be spared longer. I was better 
during her visit, but had a relapse soon after she left me, 
which reduced my strength very much. It cannot be 
denied that the solitude of my position fearfully aggra- 
vated its other evils. Some long, stormy days and 
nights there were, when 1 felt such a craving for support 
and companionship as 1 cannot express. Sleepless, 1 lay 
awake night after night, weak, and unable to occupy 
myself I sat in my chair, day after day, the saddest 
memories my only company. 

" It was a time I shall never forget ; but God sent it, 
and it must have been for the best." 

In June, without notifying Ellen of her 
intention, Charlotte made a solitary pilgrim- 
age to Scarboro', to see for herself whether 
or not Anne's last resting-place and tomb- 
stone in the graveyard of the Old Church 
there were properly cared for. She had 

Visit to Anne's Grave 237 

given the order to have the memorial slab 
erected, and what should be inscribed upon 
it, but had never seen it. The record is of 
the simplest : 





She Died, Aged 28, May 28th, 1849. 

Thus it stands as we see it to-day. Char- 
lotte found five errors in the lettering and 
had them corrected, besides having the 
stone straightened and refaced. Then she 
rested for three weeks in the very lodging- 
house where Anne had died three years be- 
fore, and " was better for her stay." The 
sea-air and bathing were a tonic to her 
nerves, and memories of Anne were sooth- 
ing, not agitating. The surviving sister 
"walked on the sands a good deal and 
tried not to feel desolate and melancholy." 

"How sorely my heart longs for you 1 
need not say," she tells Ellen. " 1 am here 
utterly alone. Do not be angry. The step 

238 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

is right. It was a pilgrimage I felt I could 
only make alone." 

She could not at once resume work upon 

"The warm weather and a visit to the 
sea have done me much good physically ; 
but as yet 1 have recovered neither elasticity 
of animal spirits nor flow of the power of 

Her father had been a semi-invalid this 
summer, but shaking off the splenetic hu- 
mours induced by heat and Haworth drain- 
age, as cooler weather approached, he took 
note of Charlotte's wan face and languid 
motions, and insisted that Ellen Nussey be 
sent for. 

The companionship of the deep-hearted, 
sweet-natured woman, whose tactful sym- 
pathy was as invariable as her leal affec- 
tion, wrought the usual results, although 
Charlotte had her for but " one little week." 

The first instalment of Villette went up 
to London very soon after the gleam of 
heart-sunshine was shed into the lonely 
places of the great tender heart, faithful 
beyond even the faith of woman to the 
memory of the beloved dead. In the letter 
to Mr. Williams announcing the coming 

Another Notable Success 239 

of the MS. we get the clue to the miserable 
inaction of the winter, the spring, and 
early summer. 

" 1 can hardly tell you how 1 hunger to hear some 
opinion beside my own, and how 1 have sometimes de- 
sponded, and almost despaired, because there was no 
one to whom to read a line, or of whom to ask a coun- 
sel. Jane Eyre was not written under such circum- 
stances, nor were two-thirds oi Shirley." 

Like the outflashing of a rainbow against 
a sombre background of clouds, a sentence 
springs into view in a note penned imme- 
diately after the publication of her third, 
and what bade fair to be her most famous, 

"1 got a budget of no less than seven 
papers yesterday and to-day. The import 
of all the notices is such as to make my 
heart swell with gratitude to Him Who 
takes note both of suffering, and work and 
motives. Papa is pleased, too." 



PAPA is pleased, too." 
The record bears date of February 
15, 1853. 

There were other things astir in the Par- 
ish and Parsonage of Haworth besides the 
pleasing excitement attendant upon the 
birth of another successful book — things 
anent which the Reverend Patrick Bronte 
was not pleased. 

In turning back to a letter written by 
Charlotte to Ellen Nussey, July 10, 1846, 
we read at the fag-end, and not apropos of 
the subject-matter of the epistle, a down- 
right contradiction of a rumour alluded to by 
Ellen to the effect that "iVIiss Bronte might 
marry her father's curate." Charlotte adds 
to her denial that the only terms on which 
she has ever been with Mr. Nicholls is 

Mr. NichoUs 241 

" a cold far-away sort of civility ; moreover, that lie and 
his fellow-curates would laugh over the absurdity for six 
months, if they were to hear of it ; furthermore, that 
they regarded her as an old maid, and that she regarded 
them, one and all, as highly uninteresting, narrow, and 
unattractive specimens of the coarser sex." 

She is quite as tartly uncomplimentary in 
October of the next year : 

"Mr. Nicholls is not yet returned. 1 am sorry to say 
that many of the parishioners express a desire that he 
should not trouble himself to recross the Channel. This 
is not the feeling that ought to exist between shepherd 
and flock. It is not such as poor Mr. Weightman 
excited." * 

Three years had sensibly modified the 
opinion held by the clergyman's daughter 
when in the last chapter of Shirley she de- 
picted the ' ' unattractive " successor of the 
whiskey-loving " Malone " as the model 
curate of the county : 

"Decent, decorous, and conscientious, he laboured 
faithfully in the parish ; the schools, both Sunday- and 
day-schools, flourished under his sway like green bay- 
trees. Being human, of course he had his faults. These, 
however, were proper, steady-going, clerical faults. The 
circumstance of finding himself invited to tea with a 
dissenter, would unhinge him for a week ; the spectacle 
of a Quaker wearing his hat in the church ; the thought 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 467. 

242 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

of an unbaptised fellow-creature being interred with 
Christian rites,— these things could make strange havoc 
in Mr. Macarthey's physical and mental economy. 
Otherwise, he was sane and rational, diligent and 

Mr. Nicholls roomed in the sexton's 
house opposite the churchyard, not a 
stone's throw from the Rectory. Charlotte 
describes his keen relish of the novel he 
would never have read had the author been 
a stranger, romances not being in his line : 

" JVlr. Nicholls has finished reading Shirley. He is 
delighted with it. John Brown's wife seriously thought 
he had gone wrong in the head, as she heard him giving 
vent to roars of laughter as he sat alone, clapping his 
hands and stamping on the floor. He would read all the 
scenes about the curates aloud to Papa. He triumphed 
in his own character." 

Which was not surprising, all things be- 
ing considered. It would appear from this 
extract that vicar and curate were upon 
amicable and social terms up to this date 
(1850), and the lively sense of the ridiculous 
manifested in the uproar that startled the 
sexton's wife is further apparent from a 
reference in one of Charlotte's letters to her 
father from Filey — near Scarboro', in June, 
1852 — to the funny proceedings in a di- 

Mr. >Jicholls 241 

minutive old church she had attended on 
Sunday : 

" At one end is a little gallery for the singers, and 
when these personages stood up to perform, they all 
turned their backs upon the congregation, and the 
congregation turned their backs on the pulpit and 
parson. Had Mr. Nicholls been there he certainly would 
have laughed out." * 

She sends kind regards through "dear 
Papa " to Mr. Nicholls, Tabby, and Martha, 
a classification that implies either disrespect 
on the writer's part — an untenable theory 
— or a pretty comfortable domestication 
of the curate in his superior's household. 
Obviously, Mr. Bronte suspected nothing 
of what led up to a denouement — and a dis- 
agreeable one to him — in the following De- 
cember. 1 condense the narrative as given 
to Ellen in a long letter from her friend, 
enclosing a note from Mr. Nicholls in 
answer to one sent by Charlotte after a 
conversation with her father. 

One Monday evening the curate had 
taken tea with the vicar, and Charlotte, 
who confesses to having had "dim mis- 
givings " of her own for some time, could 
not shake off a certain nervous apprehen- 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 471 . 

244 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

sion aroused by "his constant looks and 
strange, feverish restraint." Mr. Bronte 
had noticed with little sympathy, and much 
indirect sarcasm, Mr. Nicholls's " low 
spirits, his threats of expatriation, all his 
symptoms of impaired health," and it was 
not singular that the assistant was not 
tempted to tarry in the study after Charlotte 
left the two together. Sitting at her sew- 
ing in the parlour across the hall, she heard 
the exchange of good-nights, and "ex- 
pected the clash of the front door." In- 
stead of this there was a tap at her door, 

" like lightning it flashed upon me what was coming. 

" Shaking from head to foot, looking deadly pale, 
speaking low, vehemently, yet with difficulty, he made 
me for the first time feel what it costs a man to declare 
affection where he doubts response." 

Delicately as the story is told, we feel, in 
reading it, that even Ellen would never have 
been taken so fully into her correspondent's 
confidence but for Charlotte's solemn be- 
lief that she was folding down that leaf of 
her life forever. She had gone to her 
father as soon as her suitor left her, and 
"told him what had taken place." 

Mr. Bronte's "agitation and anger" threw 

Mr. NichoUs 245 

him into a state that menaced apoplexy ; 
he raved against the unfortunate lover in 
terms that would have been unbearable to 
his daughter had her affections been en- 
gaged. " As it was," she says, "my blood 
boiled with a sense of injustice," although 
she promised in haste to dismiss her lover 
on the morrow with decision that would 
preclude the possibility of a recurrence of 
the offence. 

She was not unreasonable in explaining 
her father's outbreak of ungovernable rage 
by referring again to his "vehement an- 
tipathy to the bare thought of any one 
thinking of me as a wife." In her desire 
to pacify him, and the "poignant pity in- 
spired by Mr. Nicholls's state," it slipped 
her memory that he was more than willing 
to sanction "the little Taylor's " suit. 

When the dust of the onslaught upon 
the curate, and, incidentally, upon herself, 
lifted, she divined the real cause of the first 
scene and others that crowded unpleasantly 
soon upon it. 

" You must understand that a good share of Papa's 
anger arises from the idea (not altogether groundless) 
that Mr. NichoUs has behaved with disingenuousness in 
so long concealing his aim. 1 am afraid, also, that Papa 

246 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

thinks a little too much about his want of money. He 
says the match would be a degradation; that 1 should be 
throwing myself away ; that he expects me, if I marry 
at all, to do very differently ; — in short, his manner of 
viewing the subject is, on the whole, far fi-om being one 
in which I can sympathise. My own objections arise 
from a sense of incongruity and uncongeniality in feel- 
ings, tastes, principles." 

She concludes by wishing "devoutly 
that Papa would resume his tranquillity, 
and Mr. Nicholls his beef and pudding," — 
his landlady reporting an utter lack of 

if the irate parent had been, instead, the 
secret ally of his curate, he could not have 
forwarded his interests more surely than by 
the course he was pursuing. Mr. Nicholls 
would be allowed to retain his curacy only 
upon condition that he would never speak 
of " the obnoxious subject " again to father 
or daughter. Since he would not agree to 
this, his days at Haworth were numbered. 
The parish took an active interest in the 
matter under fire at the Parsonage, and 
sided with the vicar. Like him, the par- 
ishioners were proud of their celebrity and 
ambitious that she should make a brilliant 

* Charlotte' Bronte and Her Circle, page 475. 

Mr. Nicholls 247 

match, should she ever marry. An old 
Haworth resident who saw the wedding, 
opened his mind on the subject to me. 

" It was not as if she was a common personage, you 
see. She was famous ! If you could have seen the 
chariots-and-pairs with liveries that used to roll up this 
narrow street and stop at that gate ! " — pointing to one 
in the wall of the Parsonage garden. " Mr. Bronte pre- 
tended to make light of it all, but he had pride in her — 
great pride — and he had a right to expect better things 
for her than just a country curate — and his own curate 
at that. He looked for a rich baronet, at the least, and 
he was n't to blame for it." 

Mr. Shorter calls our attention to the fact 
that Mr. Nicholls, in a spirit of fairness that 
does him honour, "always maintained that 
Mr. Bronte was perfectly justified in the 
attitude he adopted." This judicial and un- 
loverly mood was a thing of later growth 
than the "temper " which Charlotte regrets 
"he showed once or twice in speaking to 
Papa" ; the " flaysome looks " directed at 
Martha, who was "bitter against him," and 
that "dark gloom of his," perceptible to 

Charlotte had excused his depression and 
silent endurance of slights and insults : 

" They don't understand the nature of 

248 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

his feelings, but / see now what they are," 
was a floating straw that augured well for 
a change in the current of her thoughts. 
" He is one of those who attach themselves 
to very few ; whose sensations are close 
and deep, like an underground stream, run- 
ning strong, but in a narrow channel." 

She was never more in sympathy with 
her truculent parent than when, three 
months subsequent to this regretful ex- 
pression, she says, caustically : 

" If Mr. Nicholls be a good man at bottom it is a sad 
thing tiiat nature has not given him the faculty to put 
goodness into a more attractive form. Into the bargain 
of all the rest he managed to get up a most pertinacious 
and needless dispute with the Inspector, in listening to 
which all my old unfavourable impressions revived so 
strongly 1 fear my countenance could not but show 

Mr. Nicholls secured another curacy, yet 
we see him lingering in Haworth in April 
of 1853, "sitting drearily in his rooms," 
except when he went out to walk ; reticent 
to his brother clergymen ; holding no com- 
munication with Mr. Bronte, or with the 
members of his family, except that he ad- 
mitted to his room "fat little Flossy," 
Charlotte's dog, and took him with him in 

Mr. Islicholls 249 

his rambles over the hills. His morose 
silence and unsocial habits were making 
him daily more unpopular. 

" How much of this he deserves I can't tell," Char- 
lotte writes, perplexedly. " Certainly he never was 
agreeable or amiable, and is less so now than ever, and, 
alas ! 1 do not know him well enough to be sure that 
there is truth and true affection, or only rancour and 
corroding disappointment at the bottom of his chagrin. 
In this state of things I must be, and 1 am, entirely pas- 
sive. 1 may be losing the purest gem, and to me far the 
most precious, life can give— genuine attachment — or 1 
may be escaping the yoke of a morose temper. In this 
doubt conscience will not suffer me to take one step in 
opposition to Papa's will, blended as that will is with 
the most bitter and unreasonable opposition. So 1 just 
leave the matter where we must leave all important 

The unhappy misunderstanding grew 
worse in the next month. Mr. Nicholls's 
evident emotion when he administered the 
Sacrament for the last time to the people 
he had served for seven years, drew tears 
from many eyes and elicited from Mr. 
Bronte, when it was reported to him, the 
sneer, "Unmanly driveller!" When pressed 
by the churchwardens to assign a valid 
reason for leaving them, he answered that 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 479. 

250 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Mr. Bronte was not in fault. " If anybody 
was wrong, it was himself, and that the 
going gave him great pain." Yet, when 
Mr. Bronte addressed him, "with con- 
strained civility," at a school tea-drinking, 
the curate was curt to the verge of rude- 
ness, whereat the superior was wroth 
exceedingly. "I am afraid both are un- 
christian in their mutual feelings ! " sighs 
poor Charlotte. 

The curate was obliged to call at the Par- 
sonage to render into Mr. Bronte's keeping 
certain parish papers, and Charlotte, see- 
ing him from the window leaning against 
the gate on his way out, as if spent in 
strength, or ill, went out to speak to him. 

" Poor fellow ! " she says. " He wanted such hope 
and encouragement as I could not give hi'm. Still, 1 
trust he must know now that 1 am not cruelly blind 
and indifferent to his constancy and grief. However 
— he is gone — gone ! and there is an end of it. " 

It was so far from being the end of it 
that Mr. NichoUs called at the Parsonage in 
January of the next year (1854), being on a 
visit to Mr. Grant, a friendly neighbouring 
clergyman. Mr. Bronte was stiffly unpleas- 
ant, Charlotte so gentle that the call was 

Mr. Nicholls 251 

repeated, and a correspondence begun be- 
tween her and the self-banished suitor. In 
March, a note intended for him was slipped, 
by mistake, into the same envelope with 
one directed to Ellen Nussey, an accident 
that led to a full explanation from Char- 
lotte. Ellen was invited to meet Mr. 
Nicholls at his next visit at Easter. He 
would stay with Mr. Grant, "as he had 
done two or three times before, but he 
would be frequently coming to Haworth." 
In April, Charlotte recapitulates the cir- 
cumstances of the renewal of intercourse. 
They had corresponded, confidentially, 
since September of 1853, and the clandes- 
tine arrangement weighed so heavily on 
the daughter's conscience that "sheer pain " 
made her confess all to her father. There 
was some " hard and rough work at the 
time," but the correspondence was not 

" Mr. Nicholls came in January. He was ten days 
in the neighbourhood. I saw much of him. I had 
stipulated with Papa for opportunity to become better 
acquainted." (After eight years of almost daily associa- 
tion !) " I had it, and all I learned inclined me to esteem 
and affection. Still, Papa was very, very hostile, 
bitterly unjust. 

252 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" I told Mr. Nicholls the great obstacle that lay in his 
way. He has persevered. The result of this, his last 
visit is, that Papa's consent is gained, that his respect, 
I believe, is won, for IVlr. Nicholls has, in all things, 
proved himself disinterested and forbearing. Certainly, 
I must respect him, nor can 1 withhold from him more 
than mere cool respect. In fact, dear Ellen, 1 am 

Mr. Shorter, the first of Charlotte Bronte's 
biographers to whom were committed the 
materials for the true story of the stormy 
courtship detailed in his admirable work, ■ 
makes short work of the causes that led to 
Mr. Bronte's grudging consent to the be- 
trothal. I quote the summary: 

" Mr. Nicholls's successor did not prove acceptable to 
Mr. Bronte. He complained again and again, and one 
day Charlotte turned upon her father, and told him 
pretty frankly that he was alone to blame — that he had 
only to let her marry Mr. Nicholls, with whom she 
corresponded and whom she really loved, and all would 
be well. 

"A little arrangement, the transfer of Mr. Nicholls's 
successor to a Bradford church, and Mr. Nicholls left his 
curacy at Kirk-Smeaton, and once more returned to 
Haworth as an accepted lover." 

Charlotte Bronte was now thirty-eight 
years of age, a year older than her betrothed, 

* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 485. 

Mr. "Nicholls 253 

although, on account of her diminutive 
stature, small hands and feet, and shy man- 
ner, she seemed much younger. 

" A tiny, delicate, serious little lady, 
pale, with fair, straight hair, and steady 
eyes," — ^thus Mrs. Ritchie, Thackeray's 
daughter, depicts her, when Charlotte — 
in whom the company saw "Jane Eyre — 
the great Jane Eyre " — dined with the 
Thackerays. She could hardly reach the 
elbow the tall host stooped to offer her, 
and at table "sat gazing at him with kin- 
dling eyes of interest, lighting up with a 
sort of illumination every now and then, as 
she answered." 

The chosen friend of the intellectual Titan, 
feted by the nobility and bowed down to 
by the commonalty, confessed, by wise 
and simple, to be the first novelist of her 
day, the greatest woman novelist of any 
preceding day — she had, deliberately, and in 
defiance of opposition from the father she 
almost worshipped, engaged to marry 
Arthur Bell Nicholls, a poor curate whose 
reputation had never gone beyond the 
hills that girdled the Haworth valleys. We 
may well ponder, word by word, what she 
tells her only confidante of her own feel- 

2=i4 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

ings now that the momentous step was 

" For myself, dear Ellen, while thankful to One Who 
seems to have guided me through much difficulty, 
much and deep distress and perplexity of mind, I am 
still very calm, very inexpectant. What 1 taste of 
happiness is of the soberest order. 1 trust to love my 
husband. 1 am grateful for his tender love to me. 1 
believe him to be an affectionate, a conscientious, a high- 
principled man ; and if, with all this, 1 should yield to 
regrets that fine talents, congenial tastes and thoughts 
are not added, it seems to me 1 should be most presump- 
tuous and thankless. 

" There is a strange, half-sad feeling in making these 
announcements. The whole thing is something other 
than imagination paints it beforehand ; cares — fears — 
come mixed inextricably with hopes."* 

As a postscript to this most interesting 
letter one of her own maxims might be 

"i believe it is better to marry to love, 
than to marry for love." 

What manner of man was he who dared 
woo a woman of genius, with a soul of 
fire, and endowed with the divine gift of 
firing and illumining other souls, the world 
over? We ask ourselves the question 
wonderingly, even after reading what Char- 
* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 486. 

Mr. Nicholls 2S5 

lotte says of his courage, constancy, and 
heroic devotion to duty; and even when 
we have perused Mr. Shorter's eloquent 
tribute to his valued friend: 

"It is not difficult to understand that Charlotte 
Bronte had loved him and had fought down parental 
opposition in his behalf. The qualities of gentleness, 
sincerity, unaffected piety, and delicacy of mind are 
his ; and he is beautifully Jealous, not only for the fair 
fame of Currer Bell, but — what she would, equally have 
loved — for her father, who also has had much undue 
detraction in the years that are past." 

In pursuance of my purpose of looking 
up and cross-examining authorities that 
have not been made crafty by many inter- 
viewers, I went out of my way, upon one 
of my visits to Haworth, to talk with a 
man of the people who had been in the 
parish day-school in Mr. Nicholls's day, — 
when, as Charlotte says of Mr. Macarthey, 
"the schools flourished like green bay- 
trees." My Yorkshireman, beguiled into 
talkativeness by suggestions, when he 
would have drawn into his shell if plied 
with direct interrogations, gave me a por- 
trait that was like a charcoal-sketch in 
breadth and distinctness : 

" I wor in th' school before and after he married th' 

2^6 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

owd Parson's daughter. He wor not, so to speak, a 
tall man, but of fair height, mebbe five-foot-ten, 1 
should say, an' stocky-like. Broad shoulders, an' a 
broad face. Sometimes he wore his beard full ; some- 
times he 'd only whiskers. A master-hand he wor for 
fresh air. He cut round holes in th' panels of the door 
of his room at the sexton's where he lodged. Said he 
could na' get his breath without them. As well as if 
1 'd seen him yesterday, 1 moind how he 'd walk in the 
field back o' the Parsonage every morning after break- 
fast, rushing up an' down, swinging his arms, an', of a 
frosty day, beating them across his chest ; an' when he 'd 
kep' this up for half-an-hour or so, an' got himself into 
a glow, he 'd come tearing down the street and into the 
schoolroom, where there was only a wee bit of a stove 
to warm us in the dead of winter, and throw open ivery 
winder to let in 'real, live air,' he 'd say, pantin' for 
breath all the time. An' " — laughing and shrugging 
his burly shoulders in the recollection — " we, poor wee 
devils, all blue and fair stairrved wi' th' cold ! He wor 
niver so friendly in the parish as Mr. Bronte. It wor all 
work, an' no play, when Mr. Nicholls wor about. Na! 
not cross, but harrd like, an' speaking short an' quick." 

From other sources, among them Char- 
lotte's admissions, before his indomitable 
devotion and her father's injustice moved 
her to pity, and pity to " esteem and 
affection " — we gain the same idea of a 
lack of personal magnetism in the man she 
married. How far physical robustness and 
muscular energy app'ealed to one always 



Mr. Nicholls 257 

fragile, and seldom really well, we may 
suspect, but cannot determine. She was 
pitiably lonely. Fame had brought her 
hosts of acquaintances and a few true 
friends, without enriching home loves or 
supplying domestic companionship. She 
loved her father almost with passion, in 
the absence of anybody else to love. She 
was never intimate with him at any time, 
and with advancing years his liking for 
solitude, when once within the Parsonage 
walls, increased. Oftener than otherwise, 
his only child took her meals alone in the 
parlour, haunted for her by a host of tortur- 
ing memories. In the evening she sat, 
solitary, there, unless when Ellen Nussey 
was her guest. 

An argument which certainly had great 
weight with the dutiful daughter was Mr. 
Nicholls's voluntary pledge (kept religiously 
until Mr. Bronte's death in 1861) that he 
would be "support and consolation to her 
father's declining years." Her letters show 
how poignant was her alarm at any and 
every illness that attacked the old man, and 
how abject the sense of her helplessness 
when these were likely to be serious. A 
sentence in one of the half-dozen letters 

2^8 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

written after her marriage is pregnant with 
meaning, taken in this connection: 

"Each time I see Mr. Nicholls put on 
gown or surplice, I feel comforted to think 
that this marriage has secured Papa good 
aid in his old age." 

If we wish, in reading it, that a mistress 
of nervous, pertinent English had used 
some other word than "comforted," we 
take refuge in Mr. Shorter's assertion — 
and no more trustworthy evidence could 
be adduced — "that the months of her mar- 
ried life, prior to her last illness, were the 
happiest she was destined to know." 



was bought at Leeds." The sen- 
tence recurs to the memory of each mem- 
ber of the " Bronte Cult," in passing through 
the busy, unromantic city. She planned 
what gowns she should buy, and how they 
should be fashioned, in the course of a three 
days' visit to Mrs. Gaskell in May. The 
wedding was to take place June 29. She 
consulted her hostess, also, as to certain 
inexpensive alterations to be made in the 

A small room back of the parlour, used, 
heretofore, for domestic stores — flour, coals, 
etc., — was paved with coarse flagstones; 
the walls were rough-cast. Charlotte would 
have a board floor laid upon the cold stones, 
although, if this were done, there would be 


260 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

an awkward step up from the hall. Mr. 
Nicholls's one besetting physical ailment 
was a rheumatic tendency, and no carpet 
Charlotte could afford to buy, or that would 
be congruous with the other appointments 
of the Parsonage, would prevent the chill 
of the flags from striking through to his 
feet. The new boards were to be covered 
with a green-and-white ingrain of good 
quality; the walls would be hung with a 
green-and-white paper, and the one window 
with curtains to match. 

The two distinguished women had more 
to say of domestic economies and decora- 
tion in those three days than of books, and 
publishers, and fame. Holy Nature is justi- 
fied of her children when these are women. 

The bride-expectant wrote complacently 
to her friend, on her return to Haworth, of 
the "little new room." The green-and- 
white curtains were up ; they exactly suited 
the papering, and "looked clean and neat 
enough." To Ellen she fears that dear 
old Miss Wooler, one of the few persons to 
be invited to the wedding, may think her 
former pupil negligent because she had not 
written sooner. 

" 1 am only busy and bothered. I want 

Marriage 261 

to clear up my needlework a little, and 
have been sewing against time since I was 
at Brookroyd. Mr. Nicholls hindered me a 
full week." 

Which naive statement "comforts" us 
in no small measure, as being more like 
"lovering" talk than anything else she has 

Miss Wooler and Ellen Nussey arrived 
quietly at the Parsonage on the 28th of 
June. After the three friends had had tea, 
and discussed in full the arrangements for 
the morrow, they sat long together in the 
purple twilight, talking tenderly of the past, 
hopefully of the future, Mr. Bronte remain- 
ing, as was his custom, in the study. Not 
until Charlotte went in to bid him "Good- 
night" did he inform her that he did not 
intend to be present at the marriage. He 
would stay at home while the ceremony 
was performed. Remonstrance and peti- 
tion were in vain. He was calmly stub- 
born in his refusal, and the dismayed trio, 
retreating to the parlour, consulted the Ru- 
bric for a possible way out of the dilemma. 
The injunction that the bride shall be re- 
ceived by the officiating clergyman "from 
her father's or friend's hand " furnished 

262 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

an expedient. Miss Wooler would give 
away the daughter whose natural guardian 
had deserted her at the eleventh hour. 

Mrs. Newsome (Sarah De Garrs) puts in 
a plea for Mr. Bronte's conduct on this 
occasion, which it is but fair to read : 

" 1 think I understand his absenting himself from the 
church. There are many of us who feel heart-break at 
the marriage of ' our own,' even 'though all seems well. 
In his case it was pathetic. The Brontes had been a 
family where a joy must be shared by each member, or 
lose its flavour. The father would seem to see each dear 
absent face as they individually presented themselves to 
his mind's eye, and he could not trust himself Char- 
lotte understood her father, while Miss Wooler could 
only see the proprieties." 

Whatever weight may be attached to the 
apology, it is creditable to the framer's 
heart, and may temper our indignation in 
the thought of the little band of three 
women who next morning slipped silently 
out of the gate opening into the side-street, 
and walked the tifty yards or so lying be- 
tween gate and church-porch. Mr. Nicholls, 
the clerk, and the clergyman awaited them 
there. The ceremony, brief as it was, 
gave time for the circulation of the astound- 
ing news that "Miss Bronte, dressed like a 

Marriage 263 

bride," had gone into the church with Mr. 
Nicholls. When the party emerged from 
the lobby, the steps were filled by open- 
eyed spectators. Among them were three 
people who told me of the scene. 

The bridal dress was of worked muslin ; 
a pretty lace mantle was worn over it. 
The pure white "chip" bonnet had a 
wreath of green ivy-leaves about the crown. 
Mrs. Gaskell compares the wearer to a 
"snowdrop." Those who saw her say 
that she looked absurdly small and young — 
"quite like a little girl just from her first 

The wedding-breakfast was served and 
waited upon by Martha Brown, and she 
helped the bride change the white muslin 
for the travelling dress. We saw this in 
the Bronte Museum at Haworth, — a glace 
silk, of a warm dove colour, with a narrow 
white stripe in it, and trimmed with a sort 
of brocaded galloon. Her bonnet was of 
"drawn " or "shirred " silk ; her shawl — 
also preserved in the Museum — is in colour 
between drab and grey, all wool and soft 
in texture. This was her Sunday costume 
for the rest of that season, except when 
she varied it by substituting for the woollen 

264 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

shawl one of white taffeta — also on exhi- 
bition among the Bronte relics. 

The collection, 1 may mention here, com- 
prises other mementos infinitely touching 
to the tender-hearted visitor as indicative 
of the frugal simplicity of a life that ran 
parallel with the brilliant literary career, 
without being deflected by a hair's breadth 
from its even tenor, or catching more than 
fleeting glints of light from it. Besides the 
execrable portraits executed by the artist 
brother, there are pencil-sketches wrought 
with painstaking minuteness by Charlotte 
when she, too, dreamed of expressing her 
genius with brush and crayon. Criticism 
is disarmed by the recollection. Samplers, 
worked by the mother and each of her 
daughters ; the MS. of The Professor, al- 
most unreadable to the naked eye, but 
clear as copperplate under a glass; Char- 
lotte's expense-books, in even smaller 
script, yet perfect in every letter and fig- 
ure ; Keeper's collar — perhaps the same in 
which Emily knotted her strong fingers in 
dragging him down the stairs; a brooch, 
enclosing a lock of Charlotte's soft brown 
hair; a jet necklace which was one of her 
scanty store of ornaments; collar and cuffs, 

Marriage 265 

home-made, of Brussels net and lace, that 
were hers; a fragment of the black-and- 
white print gown she gave to Martha 
Brown to wear to the wedding, and a 
pink print figured with white — a house- 
gown of her own, made by herself as a 
part of her trousseau — each has a tale to 
tell, and all are of Charlotte Bronte at Home 
— not of the eminent novelist. 

Currer Bell lives for us no longer when 
the wheels of the carriage — with white 
"favours" at the horses' ears, and the 
same upon the coachman's breast — rumble 
down the long steep street. Henceforth, 
it is Mr. NichoUs's wife whom we see — 
the "Charlotte " known and tenderly cher- 
ished by, at most, four or five people of 
the hundreds who had met and talked with 

This Charlotte it was who dispatched a 
short note to Ellen from Conway, the first 
stage of the wedding-journey. It had been 
"pleasant enough thus far "; the evening 
was "wet and wild, 'though the day was 
fair chiefly, with some gleams of sunshine." 
Ellen must let her know by return mail 
"how she and Miss Wooler got home. 

"On Monday, I think, we cross the 

266 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Channel." Her husband was Scotch by 
parentage, but Irish by birth, and the vaca- 
tion was spent in Ireland. 

The bride "liked her new relations." 
"My dear husband, too, appears in a new 
light in his own counti^y " — is a pleasing 
paragraph in a home letter. 

" More than once I have had deep pleasure in hearing 
his praises on all sides. Some of the old servants and 
followers of the family tell me 1 am a most fortunate 
person, for that I have got one of the best gentlemen in 
the country. I trust I feel thankful to God for having 
enabled me to make what seems a right choice, and 1 
pray to be enabled to repay, as 1 ought, the affectionate 
devotion of a truthful, honourable man." 

The same note is sounded in a communi- 
cation to Ellen Nussey, shortly after they 
were resettled at Haworth. At a school 
tea-drini<ing, celebrating the home-coming 
of the wedded pair, a parishioner proposed 
Mr. Nicholls's health as a "consistent Christ- 
ian and a kind gentleman." Tame praise 
this in our ears, considering the occasion, 
yet the newly wedded wife was "deeply 
touched by the thought that to merit and 
win such a character was better than to 
earn either wealth, or fame, or power. 1 

Married Life 267 

am disposed to echo that high, but simple 

In a graver vein — not free from sadness 
— she imparts to her friend some views she 
has adopted in the month and a half that 
divide her from the wedding-day : 

" Dear Nell ! during the last six weeks the colour of 
my thoughts is a good deal changed. I know more of 
the realities of life than I once did. 1 think many false 
ideas are propagated, perhaps unintentionally. 1 think 
those married women who indiscriminately urge their 
acquaintance to marry, much to blame. For my part, I 
can only say with deeper sincerity and fuller significance 
what 1 always said in theory, — 'Wait God's will.' 
Indeed, indeed, Nell, it is a solemn and strange and 
perilous thing for a woman to become a wife. Man's 
lot is far, far different." * 

The invitation to pay her a visit at the 
earliest opportunity, urged in this letter, is 
reiterated in another written in September. 
Charlotte grudged the splendid weather 
when her friend did not come on the ap- 
pointed day. "The moors are in glory. 1 
never saw them fuller of purple bloom." 
(As she was never to see them again ! ) 

Mr. Nicholls flourishes in health, "hav- 
ing gained twelve pounds in Ireland." 
* Cluirlotlc Broiilc and Her Circle, page 493, 

268 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

Then, "Arthur" slips from the tip of the 
pen, and the lapse is prettily apologised 
for : "It has grown natural to me to use it 

Ellen must get away from an invasion 
of visitors at Brookroyd, and come to 
Haworth, where she was impatiently ex- 
pected — a petition granted in October. 

In November — "Arthur wishes you 
would burn my letters. It is not 'old 
friends ' he mistrusts, he says, but the 
chances of war — the accidental passing of 
letters into hands and under eyes for which 
they were not written." 

She and Arthur contemplate a visit to 
Brookroyd, and it is again alluded to as a 
probability later in the month. Sir James 
Kay Shuttleworth and a friend have been 
guests at the Parsonage from Saturday un- 
til after dinner on Monday, and the mistress 
of the manse has been kept very busy with 
her guests. 

An oft-postponed meeting of the two 
friends was again deferred by Arthur's 
dread lest his wife should contract a fever 
then prevalent in the Brookroyd neighbour- 
hood. Arthur, it is evident, had taken all 
her business into his capable hands. She 

Married Life 26Q 

quotes him three times in a note of four- 
teen lines, and begins one dated December 
7, 1854, with the half-regretful, half- 
jesting — 

' ' I shall not get leave to go to Brookroyd before 
Christmas, now, so do not expect me. Arthur is sony 
to disappoint both you and me, but it is his fixed wish 
that a few weeks should be allowed yet to elapse before 
we meet. Probably he is confirmed in this desire by 
my having a cold at present. 1 did not achieve the walk 
to the waterfall with impunity. Though 1 changed my 
wet things immediately on returning home, yet 1 felt a 
chill afterwards, and the same night had sore throat and 
cold ; however, 1 am better now, but not quite well. 

" Did I tell you that our poor little Flossy is dead? 
He drooped for a single day and died quietly in the night 
without pain.'' 

She can hardly understand why she is 
busier than ever before, "but the fact is, 
whenever Arthur is in I must have occupa- 
tions in which he can share, or which will 
not, at least, divert my attention from him." 

Her Christmas letter to Brookroyd in- 
cludes Arthur's holiday greetings with hers. 
" He is well, thank God ! and so am I, and 
he is 'my dear boy,' — certainly dearer 
now than he was six months ago. In three 
days we shall actually have been married 
that length of time ! " 

270 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

The wedded pair visited the Kay-Shuttle- 
worths in January, and our hearts, quite 
melted by the spontaneity of the "dear 
boy " phrase, stiffen and cool when January 
19 comes, and excuses are still made for 
their non-appearance at Brookroyd. The 
wife " hopes to write with certainty and 
fix Wednesday, the 31st of January as the 
day, but " 

The "but" is to us a black cloud settling 
down between those who had loved so 
faithfully through so many and such 
chequered years. Charlotte's own health 
is now the obstacle to going anywhere. 
She hints at a possible and natural cause for 
the "indigestion and continual faint sick- 
ness " that have been her portion for ten 
days. Her friend must keep the matter 
wholly to herself while it is so uncertain. 

"1 am rather mortified to lose my good 
looks as I am doing just when I thought of 
going to Brookroyd."* 

The November excursion to the "Bronte 
waterfall" was "dear Arthur's" idea. 
Charlotte was just sitting down to her desk 
to write a letter when he summoned her to 
a walk. They had tramped half a mile 
* Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle, page 499. 

Threatened Illness 271 

before he suggested the waterfall. It would 
be swollen by melting snows and worth 
seeing. Of course Charlotte instantly re- 
minded herself how often she had " wished 
to see it in its winter power," and the 
tramp was extended over two miles farther. 
While they were watching the "torrent 
racing over the rocks, white and beautiful," 
it began to rain, and they "walked home 
under a streaming sky. 

"However, 1 enjoyed the walk inex- 
pressibly, and would not have missed the 
spectacle on any account." 

As we have seen, the loyal, valiant little 
wife took a heavy cold, attended by a sore 
throat and cough that wore upon her 
strength. While at Gawthorpe, the seat of 
the Kay-Shuttleworths, she added to her 
cold by another long walk. The ground 
was wet and cold, and we are amazed at 
learning that her own prudence and Arthur's 
zealous care of her health did not prevent 
her from wearing thin shoes on the expe- 
dition. Sore throat and cough were abated 
somewhat, but not entirely gone, nor had 
she recovered the strength they had wasted, 
when the "perpetual nausea and ever-re- 
curring faintness" — pronounced to be hope- 

272 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

fully symptomatic by the medical man 
whom Mr. Nicholls summoned — overtook 
her. She had been confined to her bed for 
some weeks — too weak and exhausted to 
keep her feet any longer even to wait upon 
her husband — when the first of two pen- 
cilled notes was sent to Ellen Nussey : 

" I must write one line out of my dreary bed. 1 am 
not going to talk of my sufferings. It would be useless 
and painful. 1 want to give you an assurance which I 
know will comfort you — and that is, 1 find in my hus- 
band the tenderest nurse, the kindest support, the best 
earthly comfort that ever woman had. His patience 
never fails, and it is tried by sad days and broken nights. 
Papa — thank God ! is better. Our poor old Tabby is 
dead and buried!" 

Tabby had died suddenly, and although 
her great age and often infirmities had made 
her more of a care than a help for several 
years past, her death was a shock and a 
sorrow to the one survivor of the four 
children she had tended with motherly de- 
votion. Martha Brown was Charlotte's ef- 
ficient nurse. Mrs. Gaskell recounts how she 
tried from time to time to cheer her with 
the thought of the baby that was coming. 
" 1 daresay 1 shall be glad sometime," she 
would say. "But I am so ill ! so weary ! " 

Illness 273 

She put her hand — now so wasted that 
the light struck through it when she lifted 
it — to paper about the middle of February, 
1855. The letter was to the Miss Wheel- 
wright who had been her schoolmate in 
Brussels : 

" A few lines of acknowledgment your letter shall 
have, whether well or ill. At present I am confined to 
my bed with illness, and have been for three weeks. Up 
to this period since my marriage I have had excellent 
health. My husband and 1 live at home with my father. 
Of course I could not leave him. He is pretty well, 
better than last summer. 

" No kinder, better husband than mine, it seems to 
me, there can be in the world. I do not want now for 
kind companionship in health, and the tenderest nursing 
in sickness. 

" Deeply I sympathise in all you tell me about Dr. 
W. and your excellent mother's anxiety. 1 trust he will 
not risk another operation. I cannot write more now ; 
for 1 am reduced and weak. God bless you all ! 
' ' Yours affectionately, 

"C. B. NiCHOLLS." 

The unfailing courtesy and kindly con- 
sideration for others' welfare that had 
proved her a thoroughbred in health were 
with her still; her filial piety and unselfish 
fealty to her husband were strong in 
death, as in life. For the two in whom 

274 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

her constant soul was bound up she strug- 
gled with death hourly at closer quarters. 

Mr. Shorter has rounded off her corre- 
spondence as it should be, if there be any 
truth in "the eternal fitness of things," 
with the hitherto unpublished last letter 
Charlotte Bronte wrote, — and it was to 
Ellen Nussey : 

"Thank you very much for Mrs. Hewitt's sensible, 
clear letter. Thank her, too. In much her case was 
wonderfully like mine, but I am reduced to greater weak- 
ness. The skeleton emaciation is the same. 1 cannot 
talk. Even to my dear, patient, constant Arthur, 1 can 
say but few words at once. 

" These last two days I have been somewhat better, 
and have taken some beef-tea, a spoonful of wirie-and- 
water, and a mouthful of pudding at different times. 

" Dear Ellen ! I realise full well what you have gone 
through, and will have to go through with poor Mercy " 
(Ellen's sister). " Oh, may you continue to be supported 
and not sink. Sickness here has been terribly rife. 
Kindest regards to Mr. and Mrs. Clapham, your mother, 
— Mercy. Write when you can. 

" Yours, 

"C. B. NiCHOLLS." 

"The relentless nausea and faintness, 
still borne in patient trust," never relaxed 
their hold until the end was sure. February 
had gone, and half of March, when the 

Death 27"^ 

fluttering pulse quickened with fever; her 
mind wandered; she was thirsty and faint. 
Could something be given to make her 
stronger? Beef-tea, brandy, milk, were 
tried in turn. The stomach could retain 
nothing. She sank steadily, sleeping most 
of the time, from utter exhaustion, and 
speaking but once in her last night on earth. 

Her husband, kneeling by her bedside, 
and praying for the precious passing life, 
saw the beautiful eyes open upon his. 
They were full of wistful love, the lips 
were parted in a whisper : 

" I am not going to die — am I ? He will 
not separate us ! We have been so happy ! " 

She drew her last breath early on the 
morning of March 31, 1855. 

A testimonial to Charlotte Bronte, ex- 
quisite in diction and full of feeling, was 
written by Mr. Thackeray for the Cornhill 
Magazine in April, i860. It accompanied 
two chapters — all that were penned — of the 
last story ever begun by the author of Jafie 
Eyre. The unfinished tale is headed Emma. 
Nothing she ever wrote surpasses the frag- 
ment in crispness and pathos. The heroine 
is a lonely child, supposed for a while to 
be an heiress, discovered in the second 

276 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

chapter to be deserted, penniless, friend- 
less — the victim of a cruel impostor. 

Mr. Thackeray throws open the door of 
the Parsonage parlour for us, to reveal a 
tableau for which we must ever bless him. 
It is a home idyl, at the sight of which a 
distrustful, resentful pain we have tried to 
ignore, even to ourselves, leaves our hearts. 
A new and softer light plays over the fig- 
ures of the husband and wife. We can 
thank God, with her, that loneliness and 
lack of sympathy are things of the past. 
She had acknowledged to Ellen that 
"Arthur's" bent was wholly towards mat- 
ters of life and active usefulness, " little in- 
clined to the literary and contemplative." 
He was, nevertheless, an interested listener, 
a cordial sympathiser, and a gentle critic of 
her work. 

This is Mr. Thackeray's sketch : 

" One evening, at the close of 1854, as Charlotte 
NichoIIs sat with her husband by the fire, listening to 
the howling of the wind about the house, she suddenly 
said to her husband, ' If you had not been with me, I 
must have been writing now ! ' 

"She then ran up-stairs, and brought down and read 
aloud the beginning of a new tale. When she had fin- 
ished, her husband remarked, ' The critics will accuse 
you of repetition.' 

Death 277 

" She replied, ' Oh ! I shall alter that. 1 always be- 
gin two or three times before I can please myself. ' 

" But it was not to be. The trembling little hand was 
to write no more. The heart, newly awakened to love 
and happiness, and throbbing with maternal hope, was 
soon to cease to beat ; that intrepid outspeaker and 
champion of truth, that eager, impetuous redresser of 
wrong, was to be called out of the world's fight and 

Charlotte Nicholls made her will February 
17th, two days after she wrote to Miss 
Wheelwright. Although " much reduced 
and very weak," her mind was perfectly 
clear, and we have no reason to think that 
she then doubted her final recovery. As a 
proof that she did not, a clause bequeaths 
to her husband the interest of her property 
during his lifetime — ' ' in case 1 leave issue " ; 
in which event the principal was to revert 
to her "child or children." Should she die 
without issue, everything was left unre- 
servedly to him. He was sole executor. 
Her father and Martha Brown were the 
witnesses. Mr. Nicholls took out letters of 
administration April 18, 1855. 

For six years he remained an inmate of 
Haworth Parsonage, Mr. Bronte's assistant 
in church and parish, his affectionate son 
at home. Regarding his wife's father as a 

278 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

sacred trust from her, he fulfilled it will- 
ingly, patiently, even tenderly — until the 
old man fell asleep after a tedious illness, 
June 7, 1861, aged eighty-four years. 

Mr. NichoUs then returned to Ireland, 
where he still lives, beloved and respected 
by a large circle of friends, held by his im- 
mediate relatives to be "the best of men." 
After his removal to his native land he mar- 
ried a second time. His wife was Miss 
Bell, a cousin ; and Mr. Shorter gives us the 
assurance that the union " has been one of 
unmixed blessedness." 



FORTY-ONE years after the great novel- 
ist and true woman had laid down 
the insupportable burden of mortality, 1 
went on my first visit to Haworth. 

In many perusals of works that are to 
me still miracles of creative genius, when 
I recall the peculiarly secluded life of the 
writer and the circumstances under which 
they were produced, Charlotte Bronte had 
come closer to my heart than many of my 
living friends. The most commonplace 
description of her appearance or habits, the 
most meagre detail of her personal history 
had fascination for me that did not abate as 
mature years brought disillusion to many 
other dreams. My approach to the scenes 
among which she had lived, laboured, suf- 
fered, and died, was as to a shrine. 

28o Charlotte Bronte at Home 

The Haworth railway station is situated 
between the new factory village of that 
name, built upon the hill to the traveller's 
left as he alights from the London train, 
and upon steeper hills on the right. Over 
and between these last twists a foot-path, 
passing two or three black stone cot- 
tages and farm-ibuildings, and bringing up 
abruptly at what is surely the steepest 
street ever laid out by a sane surveyor. It 
is paved with flat stones set edgewise, to 
afford hoofs a possible "purchase" ; shops 
and cottages, all built of the blackened 
stone one sees everywhere here, and 
roofed with slates, line the way to the top 
of the hill, where stand the rectory and the 
church. At the very gate of the latter is 
the ancient hostelry, the Black Bull. The 
landlord, whose father and grandfather 
kept it before him, apologises for the 
"new" and modern front, which is but 
fifty-odd years old. The staircase of solid 
stone is worn into deep ruts by the tread 
of a dozen generations of long-lived York- 
shire folk. 

By the time we had taken possession of 
the comfortable bedrooms and parlour as- 
signed to us, and ordered ' ' a genuine York- 

The Haworth of To-day 281 

shire tea," twilight was settling upon the 
valleys; but we sallied forth, impatient for 
a first glimpse of the Parsonage. The wing, 
added to it under circumstances of which 
1 shall speak presently, leaves the original 
building intact as to exterior. We knew 
it at a glance, from the many pictures as 
familiar to us as any scenes in our own 
country. It is an oblong stone house of 
two stories, with two windows on each 
side of the front door, and a row of five 
windows above, with a chimney topped 
with tiles, or " pots," at each end. A stone 
pediment projects over the door, besides 
which there is nothing to relieve the bare 
ugliness of the frontage. The churchyard 
slopes away from it down to the church 
and village. At the beholder's left it also 
slopes directly down to the gable, in which 
is set a solitary window, and shuddering 
conjectures as to drainage and water-supply 
force themselves upon the least practi- 
cal. The burial-ground is literally paved 
with weather-and-smoke-blackened tomb- 
stones. There is not so much as a foot- 
path between them. 

" The back part of the house is extremely 
ancient," says Charlotte in Shirley. " It is 

282 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

said that the out-kitchens there were once 
enclosed in the churchyard, and there are 
graves under them." 

The family at the Parsonage had no 
neighbours of their own rank. On the 
farther hills are the residences of prosper- 
ous mill-owners and country gentry, but 
the Brontes had no means of reaching 
them except on foot. No carriage of any 
kind was to be had in Haworth. 

Within this cramping shell of circum- 
stances, contracted sometimes with the 
rigour of the thumb-screw, glowed and 
throbbed genius that compelled the admira- 
tion of all English-reading peoples. The 
lives these girls led in and for and of them- 
selves were as far removed from, and as 
unlike, the world of their actual environ- 
ment as the tropics from the arctic pole. 

Leaning against the square tower which 
is all that remains of the old church, while 
the night mists gradually blotted out the 
grim outlines of the rectory, we spoke 
musingly of these things, and marvelled the 
more in silence. 

Whence did the sisters draw their in- 
spiration ? Where in experiences, confined 
almost entirely to the wild Yorkshire parish 

The Haworth of To-day 283 

and the dull routine of a Brussels boarding- 
school, did they find even the suggestions 
of Rochester, and Blanche Ingram, of Rob- 
ert Moore and Catherine Linton, of Mr. 
Sympson and Dr. John ? What in these 
waste lands kept alive the holy fires of im- 
agination, and nourished fancy, and held 
back from despair natures so dissimilar to 
those of their daily associates that the very 
tongue in which they wrote and spoke was 
like a foreign language ? 

A slow rain drove us by-and-by to the 
shelter of our inn. Our evening meal, ex- 
cellent in quality and abundant to profusion, 
was served in a parlour adorned with pho- 
tographs of the old church and rectory, 
and warmed by the dancing flames of a 
soft-coal fire. A window of my bedroom 
looked upon the churchyard; the rear wall 
of the church was not twenty feet away. 

The rising wind, blowing down from 
the moors, drove the rain in intermittent 
streams against the parlour windows, as 
we mused before the fire and dipped into 
Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette to steep our 
souls yet more thoroughly in "local col- 
our." The scrape and tramp of hobnailed 
shoes upon the stone floor of the pass- 

284 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

age without our door helped the illusion 
that set dates at naught. The tap-room 
company was assembling for a Saturday 
evening sitting and smoking and decent 
quaffing of the famous Black Bull brew. 
It was easy to imagine that "th' Parson's 
son" would presently be sent for; impos- 
sible not to strain our ears to catch the 
sound of his quick run down the steep 
street, his bound through the paved entry, 
the roar of applause that welcomed him. 
Those of our party who visited the tap- 
room brought back more tales of him — the 
village demigod and the family disgrace — 
than of father or sisters. 

Sunday morning dawned brilliantly clear. 
As soon as breakfast was dispatched, we 
set out for a stroll over the moors — Emily's 
even more than Charlotte's moors, although 
the foot-path, gained by a turnstile at the 
side of the rectory wall, leading through 
several fields to the wide commons, and 
over them to the "Bronte" waterfall, 
bears the name of "Charlotte Bronte's 
favourite walk." 

The sweep of the air over the hills bil- 
lowing against the horizon on every side 
of us was the elixir of life. Look where 

The Haworth of To-day 285 

we might, we saw hills! hills! hills! — blue 
in the hollows, black in the gorges, green 
upon brow and sides with the short, thick 
turf that grows nowhere else as in this sea- 
girt, fog-draped island, and criss-crossed 
by the stone walls separating one freehold 
from another. Cattle were grazing in these 
fields; upon hillsides and hilltops we could 
discern here a cottage, there a spacious 
farmstead, and we counted four church- 
towers within a radius of perhaps twenty 
miles; but the region is sparsely settled 
outside of the mill towns, and except in 
the ravines there are so few trees that the 
effect of generous spaces in summer and 
of bleak nakedness in winter can never be 
absent from the view. 

In the springtime the miles of moorland 
are dappled green; "some of the fields are 
pearled with daisies, and some golden with 
king-cups " ; in August the meads take on 
a deeper green, and the moors are royal in 
purple raiment. Mrs. Gaskell describes 
them, when the bloom had been beaten off 
by a thunder-storm, as of a "livid brown." 
When we saw them, the heather, darkened 
by frost, was almost black when crossed 
by a cloud; the slopes of wild grass were 

286 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

bleached to a pallid yellow. To the listen- 
ers upon the serene heights that glorious 
Sunday morning, with only a world of 
purest air betwixt them and heaven, were 
wafted across the valley notes of one 
church-bell after another, until the ether 
was vibrant with celestial melody. 

Flocks of low-flying swallows skimmed 
the pale grasses, and hardy robins ran fear- 
lessly before us as we descended. We 
saw but one human creature besides our- 
selves in a walk of an hour and a half. 

Before entering upon a description of 
Haworth church and rectory, 1 feel con- 
strained by a sense of justice to correct, so 
far as is in my power, the popular preju- 
dice with regard to the changes made in 
both of these buildings since the death of 
Mr. Bronte left the living vacant. The 
duty to set down as briefly as is consistent 
with accuracy the history of these altera- 
tions is the more binding upon my con- 
science because I had, prior to my visit to 
Haworth, joined in the strictures passed 
upon what, to the distant admirers of 
the matchless sisters, was little short of 

At the time of Mr. Bronte's decease the 

The Haworth of To-day 287 

Parsonage was well-nigh uninhabitable, the 
church almost a ruin. Haworth was 
scourged periodically by low and typhoid 
fevers, and at length an official analysis of 
the drinking-water of the village revealed 
truths so revolting that the authorities in 
charge of public affairs insisted upon bring- 
ing in a purer and more abundant supply 
from a distance. Mr. Bronte refused to 
have it introduced into the Parsonage. 
The well in the yard, from which he and 
his children had drunk for almost twoscore 
years, was good enough for him. 

The Parsonage was ill-ventilated, damp, 
and cold ; the windows were few and small, 
having been put in when the tax upon glass 
burdened householders. 

Poverty, seclusion, drudgery, climatic 
severity, and repeated bereavements would 
have tamed the young eagles into the meek- 
est of barn-yard fowls had the genius that 
animated them been less than miraculous 
in fervour and might. They had meat that 
their associates knew not of. 

Outside of the Parsonage the Mwsanitary 
conditions were yet more appalling. The 
churchyard teemed with the dead, and 
fresh interments were made almost daily. 

288 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

" Family graves," unknown in America 
except among the foreign population, were 
filled to within a few inches of the surface. 
The tiny dooryard separating the Parson- 
age from the cemetery was lower than the 
swollen level on the other side of the fence, 
and when the wind blew over the burial- 
ground into the front windows it brought 
pestilential gases into sleeping- and living- 

The church stood farther down the slope, 
and in wet weather foul pools oozed up 
between the stone slabs of the floor. This 
lay by now over a foot below the graves 
pressing upon the outer walls. The deep 
digging of the "family grave" had under- 
mined the foundations ; the rear wall bulged 
and cracked, and the galleries "sagged" 
from the loosened stones of the interior. 
On the streetward side outhouses and other 
nuisances had been set close against the 
windows. So objectionable was the church 
as a place of worship that the better class 
of parishioners would not attend divine 
service here, and the congregation dimin- 
ished steadily, although the population of 
the district was increasing rapidly. 

Mr. Bronte's successor, the Rev. Mr. 

The Haworth of To-day 289 

Wade, a man of energy, scholarship, and 
refinement, in making public the report of 
experts to the effect that the Haworth 
church was unsafe, and would have to be 
rebuilt from the foundations upward, made 
application by letter to hundreds of wealthy 
and influential people who had left their 
names in the visitors' book kept at the Par- 
sonage. Selecting what seemed to him 
promising addresses, he wrote out a plain 
statement of the dilemma in which he 
found himself, and asked for funds with 
which to restore the sacred edifice as nearly 
as was practicable to the original form, 
using the old stones in the erection. The 
only donation received for this purpose was 
one of thirty pounds from an opulent noble- 
man. Meanwhile he was met by a demand 
from his own parish for a more commodi- 
ous house of worship. Since the ruin must 
come down, it was better, reasoned sensi- 
ble and interested parties, to provide suit- 
ably for the needs of a growing parish, 
already too large to be accommodated 
within the bounds of the ancient sanctuary. 
When the plans of such a church were laid 
before the people they raised all the money 
required for its construction, one man head- 

290 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

ing the subscription list with five thousand 

The tottering walls were levelled to the 
ground, the heaving pavement of the floor 
was lifted. Under the chancel had been 
interred the remains of the family that had 
lent distinction to the obscure hamlet. The 
dust of father, mother, and six children was 
mingling with the common earth, JVlr. 
Bronte's coffin being scarcely six inches 
underground. The honoured relics were 
removed reverently, under Mr. Wade's per- 
sonal direction, and placed in a vault 
constructed upon the same spot, and her- 
metically sealed. A brass plate let into the 
floor of the new church designated the 

These are incidents unknown to non- 
residents of Haworth, and sorely perverted 
in the course of the newspaper controversy 
provoked by the intelligence of the demoli- 
tion of the "Brontes' church." Criticism 
yet more caustic followed the addition of 
the new wing to the rectory, a dwelling 
altogether insufficient in size for the family 
that had removed into it. Nobody cares to 
recollect, if anybody has troubled himself 
to listen to the simple statement, that before 

The Haworth of To-day 291 

enlarging the dwelling the new incumbent 
proposed to sell it, instead, to the clamouring 
protestants, that the Bronte relics (then to 
be had by the score) might be therein col- 
lected and preserved. To employ his own 
words, he "was called to this parish to 
conserve the highest interests of the church 
committed to him, and not to act as the 
curator of a museum." If the Bronte ad- 
mirers would buy the old Parsonage he 
would erect a new one elsewhere. His 
proposal met with no response, except in 
the form of sentimental protests against the 
profanation of a shrine. Nobody raised any 
objection to his planting the churchyard 
with trees, which have thriven upon the 
mouldering mortality beneath. 

These are not pleasant details, but I do 
not apologise for giving them ; 1 could not 
say less. Nevertheless, 1 gladly pass on to 
the less gruesome features of my story. 

The inability to appreciate the actuality 
of present environment on the part of one 
who has sought a shrine in the character of 
"the passionate pilgrim," is a misfortune 
common to sensitive tourists. A notable 
exception in my own experience in this re- 
spect was the sensation that thrilled me 

292 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

almost to pain in crossing the worn door- 
step where Charlotte must have sat or 
stood times without number to see the sun 
set and the moon rise, the teeming grave- 
yard, overrun with nettles and long grass, 
stretching between her and the dark square 
tower of the church. 

As Emily had trod beside us on our 
moorland tramp, so the elder sister whom 
the world knows so much better seemed 
to glide to my side and accompany me 
through the house her genius had con- 

We were taken, first, into the room at tl\e 
right of the entrance, once Mr. Bronte's 
study — or den — where he used to hear the 
children's lessons, and Branwell's Latin and 
Greek ; where he read Jane Eyre on the 
critical afternoon of its presentation to him 
by the author ; where he bullied his would- 
be son-in-law out of reach of patience and 
politeness ; where he sat when refusing to 
give his daughter "in marriage to this 

It is bright now with sunlight which 
the windows have been enlarged to admit, 
paper of a soft neutral tint conceals the 
rough wails, books fill the shelves, and 

The Haworth of To-day 293 

pictures are set and hung here and there. 
It looks like what it is — ^the workroom of 
a thoughtful scholar of liberal views and 
refined tastes. Yet I could not get away 
from the unuttered fancy that a chill had 
been left in the air by the old man when he 
dropped, like a dead leaf, into his shallow 
grave under the church pavement. 

Across the hall is the room in which "the 
girls " wrote Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, 
Shirley, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and 
Villette, the little volume of verse published 
tentatively by the trio, and the many verses 
written and never printed. This was the 
family sitting-room, — the "parlour," — in 
which meals were served, and where the 
sisters wrote, sewed, studied, and received 
their few visitors. It is of fair size, and, 
as furnished now, pleasant and cozy. 
When scantily fitted up with such articles 
as were positively needed for carrying on 
the daily routine of domestic life and occu- 
pations, bare as to walls and floor, and in- 
sufficiently heated by the small grate, it 
must have owed whatever it had of cheer 
and comfort to the fact that it represented 
to the inmates home, and liberty to follow 
the pursuits they loved best. 

294" Charlotte Bronte at Home 

From the children's fireless "study," often 
spoken of in our former chapters, we passed 
into the "girls' room" adjoining, gazing 
there, with bowed heads and full hearts, 
upon the spot where stood the "dreary 
bed " of Charlotte's next-to-the-Iast letter 
to faithful Ellen Nussey. 

At a subsequent visit we were admitted 
to the heart of the Parsonage-home as it 
now is, — a large, cheery, handsome library- 
parlour in the wing. At our first call, we 
saw none of the Rector's family except 
himself. Under his care we returned to 
the church, where we had already attended 
service that morning. The brass tablet 
above the sealed grave under the chancel, 
the gift of a stranger-admirer, is lettered, 
Emily and Charlotte Bronte. What would 
the " brilliant " only son have said and felt 
could he have foreseen the omission of his 
name from the family roll of honour ? A 
fine stained-glass window, inscribed, '" To 
the glory of God, and in pleasant memory of 
Charlotte Bronte, ' ' was placed in the new 
church "by an American citizen," whose 
identity is a secret to all but Mr. Wade, — 
a secret he has preserved inviolate. Tablets 
commemorative of the rest of the Bronte 

The Haworth of To-day ■ 295 

household interred within the sanctuary are 
let into the wall near the door. 

In the lobby we were shown the mar- 
riage register of Arthur Bell Nicholls and 
Charlotte Bronte. Until Mr. Wade inter- 
fered to protect it by locking up the pre- 
cious volume in the safe, of which he keeps 
the key, the record was seen and handled 
by every sight-seer, and as a result Char- 
lotte's signature, the last she penned of her 
maiden name, is shockingly bethumbed 
and soiled. Both parties to the contract 
are said in the register to be " of full age " ; 
Mr. Nicholls's father is written down "a 
farmer," Mr. Bronte as "clerk." 

I bought a photograph of Mr. Nicholls 
from a Haworth man whose shop is hard 
by the church. The face had a decided 
Milesian tast, and, to my disappointed eyes, 
wore a smug, pragmatical look. 

"It is a fairish likeness," the "old resi- 
dent " assured me. " He is an Irishman, 
you know, and is still living — near Dublin, 
I think. Hers is a better likeness," desig- 
nating the picture we have learned to know 
by heart, the thin, shy face, redeemed from 
absolute plainness by the glorious eyes. 
"Recollect her? I've lived here, as man 

296 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

and boy, all my life, and seen her thou- 
sands of times. I saw her married. None 
of us ever dreamed that any of them would 
come to be famous, unless it was the son. 
He was the cleverest lad I ever knew, and 
the best company in the world. He could 
have been anything he chose if he had con- 
ducted himself differently. We were sur- 
prised that she became distinguished, she 
was so quiet and reserved. The old Parson 
had some queer ways with him. He al- 
ways slept with his pistols by him, and 
they were never far away from him. A 
few days before he died he was handling 
one, and found his finger was too weak to 
pull back the trigger. So 1, being handy 
that way, was sent for to make a lever that 
would work it. As a family they kept very 
much to themselves ; but if it had n't been 
for them, Haworth would never have been 
heard of. Mrs. Brown, the old servant 
'Martha,' who lived so long with them, 
died several years ago." 

Mr. Wade's disinclination to receive 
within the rectory the throng of sight-seers 
who troop thither from all parts of the 
world has been the subject of animadver- 
sion as virulent as that called forth by the 

The Haworth of To-day 297 

alterations in church and parsonage. When 
one pauses to reflect that the annual visit- 
ation used to be numbered by thousands, 
and still mounts up into the hundreds, that 
the Rector is a busy man and a studious, 
conscientious in the discharge of parochial 
and domestic duties, and that even a clergy- 
man is supposed to have some of the rights 
of a private citizen to hold his home as his 
castle, the present incumbent of Haworth 
may be less bitterly censured for declining 
to grant the run of his premises to the 
curious and the sentimental public. 

For ourselves, we frankly owned that 
exclusion, even of reverent pilgrims, ought 
not to be construed into discourtesy ; and 
the knowledge of his scruples and general 
practice in this respect made us appreciate 
the more gratefully the hospitable invita- 
tion to visit the sacred precincts. 

We said our grateful farewells to him 
upon the hollowed threshold of his front 
door — the gray, old stone sill which, by 
some occult process, brought the "tiny, 
delicate, serious little lady, pale, with fair, 
straight hair and steady eyes," to our spirit- 
ual vision more vividly than anything else 
about the house had done, — and bent 

298 Charlotte Bronte at Home 

our steps thoughtfully back to the Black 

In the warm noon sunshine, a robin was 
singing in the laurestinus and golden-holly 
trees fringing the sunny side of the church ; 
above, the sky was blue and smiling as a 
baby's eyes ; out on the moors the wind 
blew fresh and strong ; the swallows flew 
low, and in sheltered hollows the late- 
blossoming heather looked fearlessly up to 


Ambleside, 224 
Arnold, Dr., 225 
Arnold, Matthew, 221 


Beck, Madame, 142, 149 

Bell, Acton, 40, 184, 195, 196 

Bell, Currer, 184, 185, 189, 190, 193, 195, 196,255, 265 

Bell, Ellis, 40, 184, 195 

Bell, Miss, 278 

" Black Bull, The," 92-94, 105, 181, 202, 280, 284, 298 

Bradford, 2, 3, 8, 11, 106 

Bradford Church, 252 

Branty, 3 

Branwell, Elizabeth, 35-38, 41, 44, 50, 57, 59, 72, 82, 
84, 94, 102, 114, 130, 132, 146, 147, 151, 166, 220 

Branwell, Maria, 4, 6, 8, 33 

Bronte, Anne, 11, 19, 31, 32, 38, 40, 58, 59, 62-64, 
82,88,95,97, 105, 109, no, 114, 117, 118, 125, 
130, 132, 147, 153, i66, 169-173, 180, 183, 190, 

^00 Index 

Bronte, Anne— Continued 

'93-'95, 197. 203, 205-207, 212, 213, 215,216, 
236, 237 

Bronte, Branwell, 10, 19, 33, 40, 58, 59, 62, 64, 67, 71, 
90,92-96, 104, 106, 114, 116-119, 126, 128, 133, 
•47, '48, 15', '53, '66, 167, 169, 173-179, 185, 
190, 193, 199, 202, 203, 230, 292, 296 

Bronte, Charlotte, birth, baptism, and removal from 
Thornton to Haworth, 1-13 ; mother's illness, se- 
cluded and strange childhood, 14-27 ; mother's 
death ; home education under aunt and father; preco- 
cious children, 28-40 ; Cowan Bridge (" Lowood "), 
privation and suffering; Maria Bronte as "Helen 
Burns", 41-53; deaths of Maria and Elizabeth; 
Charlotte's return to her parsonage home, 54-65 ; 
Miss Wooler's school ; introduction to Mary Taylor 
and Ellen Nussey, 66-81 ; Charlotte leaves school ; 
studies and employments at home ; brother and 
sisters, 82-96 ; governess-ship at Roe Head ; Emily 
Bronte at home and at school ; literary aspirations ; 
Robert Southey's advice, 97-1 13; Dewsbury Moor ; 
nervous prostration and convalescence; "The 
Bronte Group " in the Parsonage ; first offer of mar- 
riage; second governess-ship ; parish work, 1 14-128 ; 
third governess-ship; project of home-school ; Char- 
lotte and Emily in Brussels, 1 29- 1 46 ; Miss Bran- 
well's death and will ; Branwell's failures as tutor, 
clerk, and artist ; Madame Heger-; Chariotte's sec- 
ond year in Brussels, 147-162 ; home-school aban- 
doned ; Mr. Bronte's blindness ; Branwell's shameful 
story, 163-182; first volume published; "Our 
book is found to be a drug " ; The Professor's ill 
fortune ; Jane Eyre written and published ; great suc- 
cess ; visit to London publishers, 183-108 ; Bran- 

Index 301 

Bronte, Cliarlotte — Continued 

well's death; Emily's illness and death, 199-211 ; 
Anne's rapid decline and her death at Scarboro'; 
Charlotte's lonely life in Haworth ; Shirley written 
and published, 2 12-226 ; iVlr, James Taylor's unsuc- 
cessful suit; yUlette written; signal success; London 
friends and distinguished acquaintances, 227-239 ; 
Mr. NichoUs's faithful attachment to Charlotte and 
Mr. Bronte's opposition ; betrothal, 240-258 ; mar- 
riage ; the new and peaceful life ; illness and death, 
259-278 ; visit to the Haworth of to-day ; Emily's 
Moors; the Parsonage; Rev. Mr. Wade; "The 
Black Bull ", 279-298 

Bronte, Elizabeth, 19, 33, 48, 62, 203 

Bronte, Emily Jane, 11, 19, 22, 38, 40, 48, 57, 62, 64, 
82,88, 90, 91, 95-100, 102, 103, 107, 109, 110, 
114, 117, 118, 124, 127, 130, 132, 137, 138, 140, 
141, 143, 145, 147. '53, "54, 163,165-168, 179, 

180, 183, 190, 1Q2, 201,203-207,209, 210, 2M, 
215, 216, 264, 284, 292, 294 

Bronte, Maria, 5, 16, 18, 19, 29, j), 38, 39, 40, 46, 47, 
55-59, 63, 164, 203 

Bronte, Mrs., 5, 7, 13, 16, 18, 21, 25, 31, 36 

Bronte Museum, 70, 263 

Bronte, Rev. Patrick, 3-5, 8-11, 13-15, 18, 22, 24, 26, 
29, 3°, 32, 35, 37-39, 42-44, 50. '57, 60, 66, 70, 
72,83,90,94,95, 104, 116, 134, 148, 166, 186, 
228, 229, 240, 243, 244, 247-250, 252, 256, 257, 
277, 286-288, 290, 292, 295 

Bronte Walk, 284 

Bronte Waterfall, 270, 284 

Brontes, Irish, 4 

Brontes, The, 5, 13, 117, 128, iqi, 144, 190, 262, 282, 


■^02 Index 

Brookroyd, 76, 105, 152, 173, 233, 261, 268-270 
Brown, Martha, 206, 219, 243, 247, 263, 265, 272, 277, 

Brussels, 131-135, 143, 152, 154, 156-158, 160, 163- 

165, 171, 273, 283 
Burlington, 130 
"Burns, Helen," 46, 51, 58 

Cambridge, 3 
Carlisle, Lord, 234 
Clapham, Mr. and Mrs., 274 
Coleridge, Samuel, 91 
Conway, 265 
Cornhill Magapne, 275 
Cornwall, 4, 21 

Cowan Bridge, 42, 45, 47, 48, 50, ■54, 56-58, 64, 66, 
68, 79, 101 

De Garrs, Nancy, 16, 34 

De Garrs, Sarah, 16, 17, 20, 2^, 24, 20, 28, 52, 54, 97, 

loi, 262 
Dewsbury Moor, 106, 110, 114, 151, 1^2 
Dobell, Sydney, 223 
"Donne, Mr.," 128 
Dublin, 295 

Earnley Rectory, 129 
" Emma," 275 
Emmanuel, Paul, 139, 160 

Index 303 

Eyre, Jane. 48, 51, 59, 80, 187, 189, 190, 193, 195, 221, 
2^Q, 253, 275, 283, 2Q2, 293 

Fennell, Jane, 8, 10 
Fennell, John, 10, 21 
Filey, 242 

Gaskell, Mrs., 12, 18, 38, 39,45,46,48, 54, 58, 76, 8s, 
97, 101, 107, 144, 158, ISO, 175-178, 194, 198, 
209, 222, 233, 234, 259, 263, 272, 285 

Gawthorpe, 271 

Grant, Mr., 128, 250, 251, 

Grey, Agnes, 190, 195, 223, 224 

Grundy, Francis, 151, 174, 202 

Halifax, 107, 1 10, 114 

Hartshead, 3, 30 

Haworth Church, 13, 60, 286 

Haworth, Parsonage of, 12, 14, 60, 68, iS2, 246, 247, 
250, 256, 257, 259, 260, 268, 276, 277, 281, 282, 
287, 291, 294, 296 

Haworth Rectory, 98, 286 

Haworth, Town of, 10-12, 16, 42, 54, 65, 73, 82, 83, 85, 
87, 88, 103, 105, no, 114, 117, 125, 132, 137, 150, 
152^ 153, 165, 168, 171, 223, 246-248, 251-253, 
255, 266, 268, 279, 280, 282, 286, 287, 290, 295 

Haworth, Vicar of, 25, 246 

Heger, Madame, 134, 135, 139, 142, 144, 154, 156- 
159, 165 

304 Index 

Heger, Monsieur, 134, 139, 140, 141, 143, 144, 153-155, 

161, 165, 168, 172 
Hegers, The, 134 
" Helstone, Caroline,'' 44. 75-77 
Hewitt, iVlrs., 274 
Hewitt, Richard, iv 
Huddersfield, 3, 105 

Ingham Hall, 1 18 

" Ingram, Blanche," 283 

Ireland, 266, 278 

"John, Dr.," 283 
Johnson, Samuel, 81 


" Keeldar, Captain," 127 

Keeper, 98, 103, 207, 209, 215, 235, 264 

Keighley, 195 

Kingston, Elizabeth, 148 

Kirklees, 73 

Kirk-Smeaton, 252 

Koekelberg, Chateau de, 134, 145 

Leeds, 3, 42, 66, 73, 93, 126, 259 
Lewes, George Henry, 221 
Lille, 1 3 3 

"Linton, Catherine," 283 
Lister, Mr. Accepted, 9 

Index 305 

London, 95, 95, 105, 133, 134, 219, 233, 234, 280 
" Lowood," 51, 55 


" Macarthy, Mr.,'' 242, 255 

"Malone, Mr.," 128, 166, 241 

Martineau, Miss Han'iet, 219, 220, 224, 225 

Milnes, Monckton, 234 

" Moore, Robert," 283 

Morgan, Mrs., 1 1 

Morgan, Rev. William, 8, 1 1 


Nelson, Lord, 4 

Newsome, Mrs., iv, 18, 262 

NiclioUs, Arthur Bell, 240-253, 255-238, 260-263, 265- 
272, 277, 278, 295 

Nussey, Ellen, 74, 75, 77-79, 84-86, 88, 95, 105-107, 
115, 118, 119, 121, 123, 130, 133, 139, 150, 151, 
155, 156, 164, 167, 171, 173, 176, 179, '82, 189, 
190, 197, 205, 207, 213-21";, 217, 218, 224, 225, 
229, 236, 238, 240, 245, 244, 251, 254, 257, 260, 
261, 265-268, 272, 274, 294 

Nussey, Henry, 120, 122, 127, 129 

Nusseys, The, 1 16 


O'Prunty, 3 


Penzance, 4, 21, 82, 148 

Professor, The, 135, 136, 154, 156. 186, 187, 189, 264 





Thomas de, 



Reuter, Mile. Zaraide, 159 

Ritchie, Mrs., 253 

Road, Old Denholme, 2 

Robinson, Miss Mary F., 138, 152, 179, 201 

Robinson, Mrs., 174, 175, 177-179 

Robinson, Rev. Mr., 166, 174, 176, 178 

" Rochester, Mr.," 283 

Roe Head, 73, 74, 76, 77, 84, ^d, 103, 105, 106 

Rue d'lsabelle, 134, 159, 167 

Scarboro', 214, 236, 242 

" Scatcherd, Miss,'' 47 

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 81 

Shirley, i, 44, 73, 98, 99, 127, 138, 145, 166, 215, 219, 

227, 239, 241, 242, 281, 283, 293 
Shorter, Professor Clement K., iii, 4, 19, 67, 116, 135, 

148, 162, 232, 247, 252, 255, 258, 274, 278 
Shuttleworth, Lady Kay, 222 
Shuttleworth, Sir James Kay, 222, 268 
Shuttleworths, The Kay, 270, 271 
Sidgewick, Mr., 118, 129 
Sidgewicks, The, 120 
Smith and Elder, 189, 193, 194, 196, 227 
Smith, Mr., 196, 197, 223 
Smiths, The, 198, 219 
"Snowe, Lucy," 135 
Southey, Robert, 109, no, 112-114 

Index 307 

Stonegappe, 118, 129 
"Sweeting, Mr.," 127, 128 
Swinburne, Algernon, 223 
Sympson, Mr., 283 

" Tabby, Our," 60, 84, 99, 103, 114, 124,218,219,243, 

" Tartar," 98, 91) 

Taylor, Martha, 74, 116, 134, 144, 155 
Taylor, Mary, 74, 75, 79, 80, 87, 97, 1 16, 131-134, 144, 

Taylor, Mr. James, 227-232 
Taylors, The, 105, 116 
"Temple, Miss," 48 
Tenant of IVildfell Hall, The, 195, 293 
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 219, 222, 234, 253, 

275, 276 
Thornton, 1-4, 8-12, 16, 30, 117 
Thornton, Bell Chapel of, 13 
Thorp Green, 166, 169, 170, 174, 178 


Upperwood House, 121 


VilUtte, 135, 139, 142, 154, 156, 159, i86, 235, 238, 
283, 293 


Wade, Rev. J., iv, 289, 290, 295, 296 

Weatherfield, 3 

Weightman, Rev. William, 126, 127, 151, 166, 241 

3o8 Index 

Wellington, Duke of, 39, 62, 221 

Wheelwright, Miss Lsetitia, 159, 161, 273, 277 

White, Mr., 129, 130 

White, Mrs., 130 

Williams, W. S., 189, 194, 196, 214, 226, 227, 234, 238 

Windermere, 222 

Wood, Mr., 69, 71 

Wood, Mrs., 71 

Wooler, Miss Margaret, 73-75, 78, 82, 96, 105, 106, 

109, 115, 126, 131, 132, 235, 260-262, 265 
Wordsworth, William, 91, 92 
IVuthering Heights, 101, 190, 195, 202, 223, 293 

" Yorke, Jessie," 74, 144 
"Yorke, Martin," 74, 134 
"Yorke, Rose," 74, 87 
Yorkes, The, 74 

Yorkshire, 4, 15, j6, 69, 92, 118, 134, 219, 220, 280, 


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